Thiruvananthapuram: A Special CBI court here on Wednesday awarded death sentence to two police officers in connection with the custodial death of a 26-year-old man in 2005.
Assistant sub-inspector K Jithakumar and civil police officer S V Sreekumar were the first and second accused in the case.
CBI special court judge J Nazer sentenced the two to death and ordered them to pay a fine of Rs two lakh each.
This is believed to be the first time that capital punishment has been awarded to two serving police officers in Kerala.
Three other accused in the case, T K Haridas, E K Sabu and Ajith Kumar have been sentenced to undergo three years imprisonment each for destruction of evidence and conspiracy.
The third accused K V Soman had died during the pendency of the case, while another accused, V P Mohanan, was acquitted by the court earlier.
The court also slapped a fine of Rs 5,000 on all the given accused.
According to the prosecution, Udayakumar, was taken into custody in connection with a case of theft and had died in a police station here after being tortured by the police.
Jithakumar and Sreekumar, who took Udayakumar into custody, were held responsible for the murder, while three others were found guilty of conspiracy and destroying evidence.
The case had triggered widespread protests across the state.
The CBI had taken over the investigation of the case following a high court order on a petition filed by Udayakumar's mother Prabhavathi.
The court approved the findings and evidence listed in the charge sheet filed by the CBI.
The CBI’s case was that Jithakumar and Sreekumar picked up Udayakumar along with his friend Suresh Kumar from Sreekanteswaram Park on September 27, 2005. Suresh was a history-sheeter with a long police record of petty theft. Their suspicion was aroused when they found Rs 4,000 with Udayakumar.
The prosecution case was that the constables inflicted crush injuries on Udayakumar's thighs purportedly to extract a confession.
The CBI booked the three officers on charge of wilful murder under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
The verdict comes at a time when the Kerala police are facing repeated accusations of custodial torture and official apathy. In a recent incident, Sreejith, a youth hailing from Varappuzha in Kochi, was taken into custody in a case of mistaken identity and tortured to death.
A mother's lone battle
The conviction of the accused brings an end to a prolonged legal battle of an elderly woman. Prabhavathiyamma, the mother of Udayakumar, on Tuesday said her legal battle was to ensure that such incidents do not repeat.
"I have full faith in the judiciary that the convicts will get maximum punishment," she told Manorama News. She said the verdict gained more importance in the wake of recent incidents including Varappuzha custodial death.
Prabhavathiyamma's will to go ahead with the case despite pressure from various quarters has been honoured with the verdict. She moved the HC seeking a CBI probe.
Former top cop hails verdict
Former DGP Jacob Punnoose had hailed the conviction terming it a lesson for the police force.