HRDS office-bearers get bail over tribal land encroachment case

The accused cannot travel abroad without the permission of the court. File photo

Palakkad: Three office-bearers of the Highrange Rural Development Society (HRDS) have been granted conditional bail over a belated case registered over the alleged encroachment into tribal land and burning of tribal huts in Mannarkkad in Palakkad district a year ago.

Judge K M Retheesh Kumar of the Mannarkkad-based Special Court for Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act cases granted bail to the trio — fifth accused and HRDS president Swamy Athma Nambi, fourth accused and HRDS vice-president K G Venugopal, and second accused P J Joy Mathew.

HRDS, which is an NGO, was in the news recently for its association with Swapna Suresh, the key accused in the diplomatic baggage gold smuggling case.

They surrendered before the court and secured bail the other day at a time when the temporary bail given by the High Court was about to end.

As per the terms of the conditional bail, they should appear before the inquiry officer every alternate Saturday.

The accused cannot travel abroad without the permission of the court. The accused should not try to contact the witnesses in the case either directly or over the phone.

The case

The case is that the accused, including HRDS Foundation Secretary Aji Krishnan, encroached into tribal land, burnt tribal huts and abused tribesman Raman at Vattilakki hamlet in Sholayur panchayat in Attappady on June 21, 2020.

The police registered the case one year after the incident. Aji Krishnan was arrested on July 11, 2022. Later, he got bail.

The HRDS was in the spotlight recently after Swapna Suresh, who made serious allegations against Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, was recruited by it.

The police registered a case against the HRDS over the 2020 incidents and arrested Aji Krishnan in a dramatic manner when he went to the police station to give a complaint citing security issues after Swapna was given a job at the HRDS.

Political games, says Aji Krishan

Aji Krishnan responding to the media soon after his colleagues were granted bail on Friday. The courts in Kerala were seeing through the political games played out in the State, he said.

Swamy Athma Nambi said that it was for the first time he was embroiled in such a case. He also claimed he didn't even know anything about the case. "The case was baseless and politically motivated. The government should refrain from such vendetta," Nambi asserted.

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