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Kerala High Court grants bail to 10 CPM workers in Thalassery post-poll violence case

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The Kerala High Court has granted bail to 10 CPI(M) workers, arrested for their alleged involvement in the Thalassery post-poll violence.

A Single Bench of Justice K Haripal passed this order on Monday, while hearing a bail application filed by one Shinos KK.

A case was registered against the accused at Chokli police station on April 7, 2021, alleging offence under Sections 143, 147, 148, 341, 323, 324, 326 and 307, read with 149 of the Indian Penal Code and also under Sections 3 and 5 of the Explosive Substances Act. The case was registered on the basis of the First Information Statement given by one Rafeeq, uncle of Muhasin and Mansoor.

In the incident, two brothers- Muhasin and Mansoor, sustained grievous injuries. Later, Mansoor succumbed to the injuries and thus, offence under Section 302 of IPC was also incorporated. During the course of investigation, offences under Sections 25(1)(B)(b) and 27(1) of the Arms Act were also added.

At the conclusion of the investigation, a charge sheet was laid against 12 accused, including the petitioners. Before the arrest, second accused/Sangeeth committed suicide, while the seventh accused/Bijesh was absconding.

The counsel for the petitioners submitted that on the conclusion of investigation, a charge sheet has already been laid on July 5, 2021, that the petitioners were arrested between April 7, 2021 and May 7, 2021, 8th petitioner/ Vipin had surrendered on April 16, 2021, that all recoveries have been affected and therefore, their further detention was not warranted.

According to the Counsel, even though it was alleged in the First Information Statement that the injured and deceased were attacked using a sword, no such sword has come to the notice of the Investigating Officer and the final report was laid, as they had attacked the injured and the deceased using wooden stick, iron pipe and bomb. According to him, Muhasin had sustained only minor injuries.

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The Counsel also submitted that material witnesses are father, brother and neighbours of the deceased and the injured and all of them are Muslim League activists, whereas the petitioners/the accused belong to rival political party, the CPI(M).

According to the Counsel, even 10-year-old sessions cases are pending in the sessions division and therefore, detaining the petitioners indefinitely in jail is not in public interest.

The counsel for the additional third respondent strongly opposed the application. According to him, it was a pre-planned political murder committed by the activists of the ruling party, on the eve of the general election, on April 06, 2021. That day between 1.00 P.M. and 1.30 P.M., some political clashes had taken place, out of which Muhasin, the booth agent, was sought to be killed by the assailants. When he had moved on a motorcycle, he was intercepted by the mob, the accused persons, and hurled a bomb at him.

The allegations against the petitioners are very serious and there are reasonable apprehension that they would tamper with evidence. All the 10 eyewitnesses including three injured are neighbours. If the petitioners are released on bail, there may not be a free and fair trial due to the threats which would be made by the petitioners, who are highly influential.

After hearing counsel on both sides, this court called for a report from the Sessions Judge, Thalassery, on the total number of sessions cases pending in that Sessions division and also the number of murder cases where custodial trail is going on.

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The Court said that now, it is very clear that the final report was laid on July 5. No doubt, the allegations against the accused are very grave. Still, so long as the final report is laid, it is not in the interest of justice, unless overwhelming reasons are made out, to keep the suspects in custody. The presumption of innocence is always the guiding factor for the Court. The accused can be detained in custody indefinitely, only if very strong circumstances are made out.

The Court further said, “Thalassery is a hub of political rivalry and clashes. Huge number of sessions cases are pending in the courts. In the circumstances, it is unlikely that the trial of case will be taken up in the near future. That would result in protraction of trial and indefinite detention of the petitioners in custody. Such a pre-trial detention is not expedient nor in public interest.

“Moreover, we are still in the grip of the Covid-19 pandemic. The Supreme Court has issued various guidelines for easing the crowd in prisons. It is the policy of Courts to ease overcrowding in prisons and therefore, that aspect also impels this Court to think of granting bail to the petitioner.

“It has also come out that all the material witnesses are members or sympathisers of the Indian Union Muslim League, rival political fraction of the accused. Normally, such witnesses are not susceptible to any kind of influence that might be exerted by the accused in the event of their release on bail.

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“On an overall consideration of these circumstances, the Court cannot ignore the well known principle that bail is the rule and jail exception. I am of the view that the petitioners can be released on bail on stringent conditions,”

-the Court observed.

The Court granted bail to the accused on the following conditions:-

i)The petitioners shall execute bond for Rs 2,00,000 each with two solvent sureties each for the like sum to the satisfaction of the jurisdictional court;

ii) They shall surrender their passports within ten days from the date of release on bail before the trial court. If they do not possess passport, an undertaking shall be filed to that effect;

iii) They shall not try to contact or influence the witnesses or tamper with the evidence;

iv) They shall not involve in any crime during the bail period;

v) They shall not enter Kannur Revenue district until the examination of all material witnesses, except for the purpose of attending courts;

vi) They shall appear before the Investigating Officer/trial court, as and when required;

vii) The petitioners shall strictly follow the various guidelines issued by the State and Central Governments with respect to keeping of social distancing in the wake of Covid-19 pandemic;

viii) If any of the above conditions are violated by the petitioners, the jurisdictional Court will be at liberty to cancel the bail in accordance with law.

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