Kottayam: The Kottayam Municipal Sessions Court has convicted 10 of the 14 accused in the sensational Kevin murder case for honour killing. This is the first conviction for honour killing in Kerala.
The 10 convicted persons are Sanu Chacko, brother of Kevin's fiance Neenu, Niyas Moran, Ishan Ismail, Riyas, Manu, Shefn, Nishad, Fazil and Shanu Shajahan. Neenu's father Chacko John and three others-Ramiz Sherif, Shinu Shajahan, Vishnu-were acquitted.
The court ruled that Kevin's murder was a clear case of honour killing. The charges slapped on the convicts include murder, kidnapping and trespassing. The quantum of the sentence will be delivered on Saturday.
Reacting to the order, Kevin's father said that it was unfortunate that four of the accused, including Neenu's father, have been let off.
"I will react once the punishment is announced on Saturday. We are not happy that her father and three others have been let off. We will contest this," said Kevin's father.
Kottayam Superintendent of Police Harisankar, who led the investigating team, said the police were happy that this tough case has been solved, and were now waiting to see the full judgement as to how the four acquittals happened.
"It was a tough case because we had to work on circumstantial evidence. The hard work done by our team has paid off," Harisankar said.
The preliminary hearing of the case which began on February 13, 2019 was completed last month. The trial had to be completed in a span of six months as the case was deemed an honour killing. The court had confirmed that 24-year-old Kevin P Joseph was killed in a bid protect the honour of the family of the prime accused.
The charge-sheet of the case says that Kevin, a Dalit Christian from Kottayam, was kidnapped and murdered by a gang led by Sanu Chacko, brother of Kevin's fiance Neenu Chacko on May 27, last year.
Sanu is the prime accused while his father Chacko is the fifth accused.
Kevin had met Neenu while she pursued a course in a Kottayam college. Two days before the murder, the two of them had filed a joint application for marriage registration at a sub-registrar office in Kottayam as the family of the girl had fiercely objected to their marriage. Neenu's family later registered a complaint with the police stating that she had gone missing. Though the police summoned the two, Kevin and his cousin Anish left the girl back at her hostel as she confirmed that she intended to go with Kevin.
Thereafter, the armed gang, which arrived in three vehicles, reached Kottayam and vandalised Kevin's house and forcibly took away him and Anish, a native of Kalambukattuchira at Mannanam. The abductors thrashed Anish severely and left him on the way.
Kevin's body was found in a river in Kollam district on May 28. His relatives alleged that he was tortured and killed.
His family had alleged that laxity on the part of the local police in taking action on a man-missing complaint filed by Neenu had resulted in the gruesome death of the youth.
Sub-inspector M S Shibu and ASI Sunnymon of the Gandhinagar police station were suspended while Kottayam district superintendent of police V M Mohammed Rafique was transferred following the incident.
The post-mortem conducted at the Kottayam Medical College hospital had found that there were 16 cuts and bruises on Kevin's body.
The findings of the police inquiry and the post-mortem say that Kevin drowned in the Chaliyakkara river while he was trying to escape from the gang. But doubts remain whether Kevin died after falling in the river while running at night or if he was beaten by the goons and dumped in the river after death.
The 14 accused in the case include Sanu Chacko, Niyas Mon (Chinnu), Ishan Ismail, Riyas Ibrahimkutty, Chacko John, Manu Maraleedharan, Sheffin Sajad, N Nishad, Titu Jerome, Vishnu (Appunni), Fazil Sheriff, Shanu Shahjahan, Ramiz Sherif.
In all 238 documents, 55 pieces of evidence and 113 witnesses have been examined by the court so far. The mobile phone records of the accused, mobile phone photos, CCTV visuals from four different locations and the speed camera records provided by the Motor Vehicles Department will prove crucial in the case.
The charges slapped on the accused include punishment for murder (section 302), kidnapping (section 364 A), criminal conspiracy (section 120 B), house-trespass (section 449), voluntarily causing hurt (section 321), wrongful confinement (section 342), criminal intimidation (section 506-2), mischief causing damage to the amount of fifty rupees and above (section 427), causing disappearance of evidence (section 201), and criminal act done by several persons with common intention (section 34).
Arguments of Prosecution
• Kevin was murdered by Neenu's family as he was from a comparatively low socio-economic background, and hence this a clear case of honour killing.
• Neenu's brother, Sanu Chacko led the group who kidnapped and killed Kevin.
• Second accused had issued a death threat to Kevin before the murder. Kevin had confided the same to Neenu.
• There is evidence to prove that Sanu and 12 other accused, excluding Chacko, had arrived in Kottayam at the time of murder.
• The autopsy report proves that Kevin was murdered.
• The police surgeon has testified that Kevin did not die due to drowning.
• Weapons have been recovered from the accused.
Arguments of the Defence
• There's no proof that this is a case of honour killing.
• There's no evidence to prove that Neenu's family informed Kevin's family about the disgrace they allegedly felt from the alliance.
• The first statement given by Aneesh, the key witness in the case, does not mention about Kevin running away.
• There's no proof to substantiate that Kevin was murdered. The first autopsy report states death by drowning. Though a doctor's panel was formed to counter the claim, there is no conclusive evidence to show that he was forcefully drowned.
• Anish was dropped back by the accused. In their statement to the police, the accused stated that Kevin ran away.
Timeline of the case
May 27: Kevin Joseph and cousin Anish abducted from his house at S H Mount near Kottayam by 13 men in the wee hours; the gang was allegedly engaged by his fiancee Neenu's family. His body was found in a river in Kollam district Monday. Anish released later.
May 28: His body found in a river near Thenmala in Kollam district.
May 29: A dawn-to-dusk hartal called by the BJP and UDF in Kottayam to protest over the incident.
May 30: The post-mortem of Kevin at Government Medical College Hospital, Kottayam, fails to establish whether it was death by drowning or murder by drowning, and sees equal possibility for both. The police decides to seek expert opinion. Tension prevailed at the hospital as the post-mortem was done.
June 1: The nine accused charged with murder and other crimes.
June 3: Police recover machetes allegedly used by the accused.
June 8: Two police officers who committed lapses in the initial investigation transferred.
June 9: The accused produced at the Ettumanur Judicial First-Class Magistrate court as their remand ended.
Nov 7: Kottayam Additional Sessions Court says Kevin was a victim of honour killing. Earlier, a prosecution had made a plea in this regard so as to complete proceedings in the case within six months as is warranted in honour killing cases.
Feb 13: Hearing for the Kevin case begins
Aug 22: 10 of 14 accused convicted for honour killing.