Kasaragod: BJP state president K Surendran, the first accused in the Manjeshwar election bribery case, failed to appear in the court on Tuesday, despite being in the district, said the prosecution.
The other five accused in the case also did not appear in the Kasaragod sessions court, despite being served with notices to be present in the court on Tuesday, September 12. They are BJP state committee member and senior lawyer K Balakrishna Shetty, BJP district secretary Manikanda Rai, BJP's Manjeshwar constituency secretary Suresha Y, former Yuva Morcha leader and Surendran's confidant in Kozhikode Sunil Kumar alias Sunil Naik, and party worker Logesh Londa. They were, however, represented by their lawyers in the court.
This is the second time the accused failed to appear in court in the election bribery case. The sessions court set September 21 as the next date for the case and directed all the accused to be present on that day.
BJP state president Surendran arrived in Kasaragod on Tuesday to meet prominent leaders in Manjeshwar as part of the Lok Sabha election.
In the charge sheet submitted to the court, the Crime Branch indicted the BJP leaders with allegedly kidnapping, threatening, and bribing BSP candidate K Sundara to withdraw from the Manjeshwar Assembly election in 2021.
They were charged with the stringent Section 3 (1) (l) (B) of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, which deals with forcing or intimidating a member of a Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe community to withdraw his nomination papers. Sundara belongs to the Mogar Scheduled Caste.
When Adv Balakrishna Shetty moved the court seeking anticipatory bail in the case, Kasaragod Sessions Judge C Krishna Kumar rejected the petition saying "there exists a prima facie case regarding the complicity of the petitioner" in the alleged offence. And if there is a prima facie case under the SC ST Prevention of Atrocities Act, there is a bar on giving anticipatory bail under Section 18 of the same Act.
Shetty, a notary, had told the court that he had helped prepare the withdrawal papers of Sundara as a lawyer and that should not be held against him.
In 2021, the BJP had an interest in Sundara as he garnered 467 votes as an independent candidate in Manjeshwar Assembly election in 2016 when Surendran lost to the IUML's P B Abdul Razak by a meagre 89 votes.
After he withdrew from the election in 2021, BJP leaders had given him a reception at his house and posted the photograph on their Facebook.
Sundara, however, told the police and media that he was threatened and given Rs 2.5 lakh and a smartphone worth Rs 8,000 to withdraw from the election, which he did.
The case was filed after Sundara went public with the allegations after the election and LDF's candidate in Manjeshwar V V Rameshan filed a police complaint against K Surendran. Badiadka police, however, registered the FIR only on the direction of the court.