Madhu lynching: Court orders eye test of hostile witness, forest dept sacks him

Madhu (left). Photo: Manorama Online.

A special court in Kerala’s Palakkad district, where the trial in the case relating to the lynching of tribal youth Madhu is going on, witnessed dramatic events on Wednesday even as two more witnesses turned hostile.

The SC/ST(POA) Special Court in Mannarkkad, in a surprising move, ordered to conduct an eye test of one of the witnesses soon after he turned hostile. The court ordered to examine the eye sight of Sunilkumar, a forest watcher, after he said that he was not able to recognise the people, including himself, in some footage screened by the court. In the footage, Sunilkumar was seen standing next to Madhu when the mob caught him. Sunilkumar had told the police that he had clearly seen the accused attacking the tribal youth.

The court declared him a hostile after he retracted his earlier statement before the court on Wednesday. The court, however, told him that it could clearly see the visuals screened as evidence. The court then ordered his eye test. He was taken to Palakkad District Hospital for the test. The result of the test is awaited. TV channels aired visuals of a visibly tensed Sunilkumar being taken to the hospital.

Sunilkumar was terminated from the service by the forest department soon after the incidents in the court. He was a contract staffer. The authorities concerned sacked him citing that he was unfit for the job.

 Three other forest watchers -- Kali, Abdul Razaq and Anil Kumar -- were earlier sacked from job after they also turned hostile in the case.

The court’s order as well as the governmental action are seen as a step to prevent the remaining witnesses from turning hostile. Along with Sunilkumar, another witness, Deepu, also turned hostile on Wednesday. So far 16 prosecution witnesses have turned hostile, leaving the fate of the case that rocked the state uncertain.

One more witness had turned hostile on Tuesday, the day when the trial resumed after an interval. The trial resumed weeks after the Kerala High Court reversed the special court’s order cancelling the bail of 12 accused found to have tried to influence witnesses. There are a total of 16 accused in the case.

The special court at Mannarkkad had cancelled the bail of the 12 accused on August 20, pointing out that while granting bail to the accused, the high court had instructed them not to try to influence the witnesses in any manner.

The high court stayed the Mannarkad court’s order on August 24 after the accused challenged the lower court’s directive.

‘Saw first accused kicking Madhu’
During the trial on Tuesday, a witness told the court that he had seen first accused Hussain kicking the tribal youth Madhu. Manikandan, the 28th witness, gave a statement in favour of the prosecution.

In a case where several prosecution witnesses have so far turned hostile, two witnesses stood firm on their statements in court on Tuesday.

The 26th witness Jayakumar also stood by his earlier statement, but the 27th witness Saithalavi turned hostile.

Karara native Manikandan, an auto driver, testified in court that he saw Madhu, with his hands tied, amid a crowd at the Mukkali junction.

He further said that he saw the first accused Hussain kicking Madhu on his chest.

In reply to a question of the defence counsel, Manikandan said that he, an auto driver, was at Mukkali when the incident happened and saw Hussain kicking Madhu.

Crane operator Jayakumar, the 26th witness, also gave a statement in favour of the prosecution.

Jayarajan had earlier given a statement to the police that he saw Madhu's utensils and other articles near the forest department's teak plantation. He reiterated this statement in court on Tuesday.

 It was on February 22, 2018, that Madhu - a tribal youth from Chindakki hamlet near Mukkali, Attappady - was killed by a group of locals alleging regular theft. However, the trial could not begin for more than four years for various reasons, including the refusal of the special prosecutors to take up the case.

When Madhu's family protested, the government appointed C Rajendran as special public prosecutor. However, he was removed and replaced by his deputy Rajesh M Menon based on the request by the victims family when the witnesses started turning hostile.

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