Fifteen years after being accused of the murder of his minor daughter’s lover after the couple was caught eloping in a case of alleged honour killing in Kerala, the Supreme Court has acquitted the father and the girl’s brother on the technical ground that their guilt has not been proven beyond reasonable doubt.
The recent judgment given by a Bench of Justices Gopala V. Gowda and R.K. Agrawal even entertained the possibility of an unknown “third person” being involved in the crime.
The Bench was deciding an appeal filed by the father and son against the Kerala High Court verdict in June 2009, setting aside a trial court decision of acquittal.
The High Court had overturned the Thodupuzha Additional Sessions Judge verdict to acquit the duo and sentenced them to life imprisonment for the murder of the victim, an autorickshaw driver, in 2000.
According to the prosecution, the runaway couple were caught by the duo. The victim was then thrown into a paddy field filled with mud and water and both men drowned him by sitting on top of him.
The prosecution case hinged on the version of a witness who chanced on the act of crime, but quietly slipped away. The witness, instead of going to the police directly, had narrated the incident, incriminating the two men, to a local panchayat member, who in turn lodged a complaint with the Idukki Police.
During the trial, 22 prosecution witnesses had turned hostile, creating a dent in the police story and leading to their acquittal.
Overturning the High Court verdict, the Supreme Court said the prosecution had been unable to prove the guilt of the accused beyond a reasonable doubt. Again, the apex court said the conduct of the “chance witness” was strange. The court discredited the version of the witness and said he was not an eyewitness to the alleged crime as he had claimed to be.