HC stays proceedings against minister Antony Raju in evidence tampering case

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Minister Antony Raju. File Photo.

Kochi: The High Court has stayed all trial proceedings against Transport Minister Antony Raju in an evidence tampering case dating back to 1990 for a period of one month.

The case was that Raju, while practicing as a lawyer, tampered with a material object in a drug peddling case in which a foreign national was the accused.

It is evident from the records that the required proceedings, to be taken upon tampering with any evidence in the court's custody, have not been complied with in the case. Hence, there is a prima facie case in favour of the petitioner, the High Court observed, while allotting the stay.

Justice Ziyad Rahman issued the order in a petition by minister Antony Raju, seeking to quash all the proceedings of the Judicial First Class Magistrate Court, Nedumangad.

The court admitted the plea while issuing notices to the government and the petitioner rtd. Sheristar T.G. Gopalakrishnan Nair.

The minister’s lawyers argued that the Police is not authorized to conduct an investigation if tampering with evidence in the custody of a court occurs. In such cases, as per section 195 (1) CrPC, a complaint must be submitted by the court concerned or the officer authorized by the court or some other court to which that court is subordinate, and a court should take action on it.

Here, the Sheristar of the sessions court lodged a complaint with the police, and the Valiyathura Police lodging a chargesheet on its basis is unconstitutional. Senior counsel Adv. P Vijaya Bhanu and lawyer Deepu Thankan appeared for the minister.

According to the complaint, the minister, in his capacity as a lawyer, allegedly tampered with the undergarment, a material object produced as evidence, to obtain a verdict in favour of Australian national Salvatore Cervelli. The latter was caught in a drug peddling case at the Thiruvananthapuram airport on April 4, 1990.

The High Court, while acquitting the Australian national, had directed an inquiry into complaints of evidence tempering. The Sheristar of the Thiruvananthapuram sessions court then lodged a complaint based on the Vigilance probe. The police had filed a chargesheet against Antony Raju, a lawyer back then, and court employee Jose on March 24, 2006.

The High Court will consider the minister's petition to quash the case on August 31. Meanwhile, another petition filed by George Vattukalam to expedite the case proceedings is also in the court's consideration.

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