By Matters India Reporter
Kottayam, August 27, 2019: Ten convicted in Kerala’s first honor killing case were awarded double life imprisonment and a fine of 40,000 rupees each.
The Principal Sessions Court in Kottayam on August 27 announced the quantum of punishment five days after it found them guilty of murdering Kevin Joseph, a 23-year-old Dalit Christian who was in a relationship with 21-year-old Neenu Chacko, who was higher in caste. Both of them decided to get married amid strong resentment from within her family.
In May 2018, the couple had filed an application for marriage. Though Neenu’s family challenged the application, the issue was settled in the presence of police.
The court allowed them to serve both life terms together.
The life sentence has been given for murder, kidnapping and threatening. After the court termed the case as rarest among rare, speculations were rife that the accused would be awarded death penalty.
The court did not award death sentence to the convicts were not awarded a death sentence considering their age. The court also observed that the convicts had no criminal background.
From the fine, prime witness Aneesh will get 100,000 rupees and Neenu and Kevin’s father Joseph will share the rest of the fine amount.
The court on August 22 had termed the controversial case as an honor killing and found all main accused in the case including Shanu Chacko, the brother of Neenu, guilty. However, Neenu’s father Chacko was acquitted. Court convicted 10 accused while acquitted four others in the list.
First accused was Shanu Chacko, second accused was Niyas Mon. The others were Ishan, Riyas, Chacko, Manu Muraleedharan, Shefin, Nishad, Tittu Jeram, Vishnu, Fazil Sherif, Shinu Shajahan, Shinu Nasar and Ramees. Among them nine are in jail and five are on bail.
The court acquitted the girl’s father as the prosecution couldn’t establish in the court that the fifth accused had involvement in the conspiracy behind the murder. The court acquitted Ramees Sherif, Shinu Shajahan and Vishnu (Appunni) for want of evidence.
Earlier, Kevin’s father Joseph said that the acquittal of Chacko was not right and that he would appeal against it in the Kerala High Court.Chacko was the main conspirator in the case, alleged Joseph.
Earlier, the high court had directed the court to complete the trial of the case within six months. The verdict came with three more months left for the deadline to end. Prosecution had argued in the court that the case was rarest among rare and it was a case of honor killing.
However, in the counter argument, the defendants argued that since the two parties are Christians, the case is not an honor killing. In the final verdict, the court termed the murder of Kevin as an honor killing.
The trial that began on April 26 this year lasted for 90 days. Lawyers opined that completing trial in short period on such big cases is rare.
Kevin P Joseph was abducted on May 27, 2018 by a gang allegedly hired by his wife’s family and his body was found in a river in Kollam district a day later.
During the trial, Kevin’s wife submitted that it was a case of honor killing as he was abducted and killed by her relatives. She also told the court that her father had objected to her relationship as Kevin belonged to a lower caste. She had also alleged Kevin was abducted and killed by her relatives as they thought that their marriage would dishonor their family.
On May 26 midnight, Kevin along with his friend Aneesh was abducted allegedly by Neenu’s brother and his friends from his home in Kottayam.
Though Neenu approached the local police for help, they allegedly refused to intervene. The police refused to act even on the second day citing VIP duty. The police negligence came to light as media intervened in the issue.
Later that day, police launched a statewide hunt for Kevin and the accused in the case. On the night of May 27, Aneesh managed to escape from the custody of abductors.
On May 28, Kevin’s body was fished out of a river in Kollam district. Kevin’s death led to massive public outrage forcing the government to act tough on the police officers who failed to discharge their duties. Officers including a sub-inspector and an additional sub-inspector were suspended in connection with this.
A special court was set up to fast track the hearing in the case. Following the murder Neenu decided to stay with Kevin’s family. During the course of the trial Neenu and Kevin’s friend Aneesh turned out to be the key witnesses that helped the prosecution pin down on the accused.