Kerala special court convicts 13 people for beating to death tribal man

Madhu, a tribal man from Attappady, was beaten to death after he was caught and tied up by a group of local people who accused him of theft on February 22, 2018.
Kerala special court convicts 13 people for beating to death tribal man

Palakkad (Kerala) | A special court in Kerala on Tuesday convicted 13 people for beating a tribal man to death for allegedly stealing food articles in 2018 in Palakkad district of the state.

Madhu, a tribal man from Attappady, was beaten to death after he was caught and tied up by a group of local people who accused him of theft on February 22, 2018.

More than five years after the incident, special court judge K M Ratheesh Kumar convicted them for the offence of culpable homicide not amounting to murder under Section 304 Part II of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) which carries a maximum punishment of 10 years' jail term, Special Public Prosecutor (SPP) Rajesh M Menon told reporters.

The jail terms to be served by the convicts would be pronounced on Wednesday, the SPP said.

Of the 13, the first accused was convicted for the offence under Section 304 II of IPC and the remaining 12 were additionally held guilty for crimes under Section 326 (voluntarily causing grievous hurt by dangerous weapons or means) and 367 (kidnapping or abducting in order to subject person to grievous hurt, slavery) of the IPC, he added.

Sections 326 and 367 carry maximum punishments of life imprisonment and up to 10 years jail term, respectively.

The 12 convicts were also held guilty for the offence under Section 3(1)(d) of the SC/ST Act, the SPP said.

The 16th accused in the case was only held guilty for the offence of "assault or criminal force otherwise than on grave provocation" under Section 352 IPC which carries a punishment which may extend to three months or a fine which may extend to Rs 500 or both, he said.

The SPP said the court was of the view that the accused did not have the intention to kill the tribal man.

Of the 16 persons, the remaining two accused were acquitted by the court.

SPP Menon said the court did not find the accused guilty of murder and the reasons for the same would be evident after the judgment copy is made available.

SPP Menon also said that the case was weakened due to several witnesses turning hostile. "We started with direct evidence of the crime, but by the end of the trial we were left only with circumstantial evidence. The digital evidence played a crucial role in the case," he told reporters.

Madhu's mother said she was not satisfied with the verdict, especially the acquittal of the two accused and the fact that none of the 16 had been convicted for murder. "I will appeal against this verdict. All of them are guilty," she told reporters outside the court.

The victim's sister said she was thankful to the court for convicting 14 of the 16 accused but would appeal against the aquittal of the two persons. She was happy with the outcome, she said, as no one had thought they would be able to carry their fight to gain justice for Madhu this long and till this stage.

"So, I will no longer be disappointed or sad. I know I can take this matter all the way to the Supreme Court, if required. We will go in appeal seeking murder charges (for all 16) and against the acquittal of the two accused.

"I do not believe that my brother has got justice. He will not get justice till all of them are convicted," she said outside the court.

Meanwhile, State Minister for Welfare of Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Backward Classes K Radhakrishnan said that the verdict might probably come as a relief for Madhu's family and the people of Kerala as a whole, and might bring some satisfaction to them.

As several witnesses had turned hostile during the trial, Radhakrishnan said it has been decided to put in place a system of witness protection so that they can give statements in court without fear or outside influence.

The minister said there has to be continuous vigilance by everyone to prevent the recurrence of such an incident in the State.

"Else mob lynchings happening in other parts of the country will happen here too," he said.

Regarding Madhu's family, he said that the government had helped them by disbursing Rs 10 lakh from the CMDRF and Rs 8.4 lakh under the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.

Leader of Opposition in the State Assembly V D Satheesan also termed the verdict as a relief for the people of the state who were shocked by the incident.

He, however, alleged that there was serious failure on the part of the government in handling the case as "many witnesses turned hostile, the victim's family was intimidated and the police did nothing".

"It was the fighting spirit and determination of Madhu's family that was crucial for the progress in the case," Satheesan said.

Prior to the pronouncement of the verdict, the victim's mother and sister said they expected that Madhu would get justice. "We expect a good verdict," the victim's mother had said.

His sister said: "I believe my brother will get justice. We expect it to be a good verdict." Advocate Menon, who was the additional public prosecutor in the case, took charge as SPP in June last year after the victim's family sought a change in the prosecutor. He was the fourth SPP in the case.

According to the post-mortem report in the case, Madhu had injuries on the head and bruises all over the body, including broken ribs, as well as internal bleeding, the police had said.

Madhu, who was said to be mentally ill, had been living in a cave in the forest for the past several months, his family said. His mother and sister told television channels in 2018 that a group of nearly 10-15 persons had gone to the forest and thrashed him for allegedly stealing food articles from some shops in the forest-fringe town of Agali in Palakkad district.

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