Kasaragod: The Communist Party of India (Marxist) [CPM] is tying itself into a knot in the assault case of former minister E Chandrasekharan (74), in which two of its leaders turned hostile, helping 12 RSS-BJP accused walk scot-free.
Deshabhimani- the CPM's mouthpiece newspaper- reported that the Communist Party of India (CPI) leaders who were called in as witnesses also did not identify the accused in the court but the media highlighted only the hostile statements of the CPM leaders to create a controversy.
CPI leader Chandrasekharan, who was the revenue minister in the first Pinarayi Vijayan government, was assaulted allegedly by BJP-RSS workers on May 19, 2016, the day he won the election.
He was assaulted when his victory procession reached Mavungal, an RSS-BJP pocket near Kanhangad.
Chandrasekharan suffered a hairline fracture on his left arm and took oath as minister wearing a shoulder sling.
CPM's district committee member T K Ravi, former CPM district secretary A K Narayanan, CPI's former Kasaragod district secretary K V Krishnan, CPM local committee member Anil Bangalam, and driver and CPM worker K Hakeem were also injured in the assault.
Hosdurg police arrested 12 accused, all RSS-BJP workers, and charged them with attempting to murder and causing grievous injuries.
The arrested persons were identified as Balaraman of Meladukam in Mavungal, Pradeep Kumar and autorickshaw driver Rajesh M (36) of Kalyan Road near Mavungal, Anoop E K of Udayamkunnu, painter S Sudeesh (30) of Kalyan Road, autorickshaw driver Babu 'Katta' (53) of Mavungal, Rahul M (24), soda factory worker Arun M (24), former lottery seller Manoj P, Sujith M of Pallot, Pradeep Kumar, an LIC agent, and Shiju.
On January 25, this year, the Kasaragod Additional Sessions Court (II) acquitted all 12 BJP-RSS workers for lack of evidence.
Deshabhimani reported on Wednesday (February 1) that the media did not report the attack on the MLA then but were now targeting the CPM. The CPM and the CPI leaders, called in as witnesses, gave similar statements in the court, the newspaper insisted.
'Deshabhimani report full of lies and half-truths'
The CPI Kasaragod district unit- which remained silent when the CPM leaders turned hostile in court, got an adverse verdict, and when the media reported it- put out a statement lambasting the Deshabhimani report.
CPI district secretary C P Babu said the report was full of lies and half-truths. "The court documents will prove the CPI leaders did not turn hostile," he said.
Chandrasekharan and K V Krishnan repeated in the court the statements they gave to the police. But CPM district committee member T K Ravi, local committee member Anil Bangalam and CPM worker Hakeem identified the 12 accused in the office of the Kanhangad Deputy Superintendent of Police. "The statements of the three witnesses were central to the police investigation. All three said in the court that they did not give such a statement and said they did not identify the accused," said Babu.
Onmanorama fact-checks Deshabhimani
Onmanorama, which first reported that the 12 BJP-RSS accused in the case were acquitted because CPM leaders turned hostile in the court, compared the Deshabhimani news report with the court documents and found that it was a face-saving exercise gone wrong at two levels. First, the report forced the CPI to publicly call out its ally CPM in the case; and second, the report flies in the face of court documents.
Deshabhimani's claim: CPI and CPM leaders did not identify the accused in court
Fact-check: Public prosecutor M Abdul Sathar requested the court to declare prosecution witnesses CPM district committee member T K Ravi, local committee member Anil Bangalam and driver Hakeem hostile as they contradicted their own statements given to the police.
The prosecution did not make a similar request to the court for CPI leader K V Krishnan.
When Onmanorama contacted Abdul Sathar on Wednesday, he said K V Krishnan and E Chandrasekharan did not identify the accused by their names in the court. "But they said the accused were among those who attacked them," he said. That is not enough to procure the conviction, he said.
For conviction, the CPM leaders should have stuck to their statements.
The prosecution's 'memorandum of evidence' lists out the role of each witness in the court.
Onmanorama reviewed it. E Chandrasekharan was assigned the role of repeating his First Information Statement (FIS) given to police, and mentioning the injuries he suffered in the attack.
Former CPI district secretary K V Krishnan (now 68 years) was listed as an eyewitness and was expected to say in the court that he was with E Chandrasekharan when they were attacked.
To be sure, the police did not make Chandrasekharan or Krishnan identify the accused by their names or faces during the investigation.
CPM leader T K Ravi, who was in the same jeep as Chandrasekharan, was enlisted as a prosecution witness to testify about the grievous injury he suffered and identify eight accused in the case.
According to the prosecution documents, Ravi visited the office of the Kanhangad DySP on May 21 and May 27, 2016, and identified A1 (accused no. 1), A3, A5, A6, A7, A8, and A9 and A10.
Driver Hakeem was enlisted as a prosecution witness to identify the 11 accused in the case. He had identified them when he visited the DySP office on May 27 and June 2, 2016.
Anil Bangalam, a member of CPM's South Madikai Local Committee, was enlisted as the only prosecution witness who had identified all the 12 accused arrested in the case.
He had gone to the DySP office on May 21, May 27, and May 31, 2016.
But in the court, Ravi said: "There were more than a hundred people in the mob. Therefore, I cannot tell if the accused were among those who threw stones at us. After the incident, I have not identified the accused. I have not given any statement to the police identifying the accused". Ravi is now the president of Kinnaur-Karindalam grama panchayat.
Anil Bangalam and Hakeem also denied identifying the accused in court.
There were 23 witnesses in the case. But the specific task to identify the accused was given to T K Ravi, Anil Bangalam, and K Hakeem. All three turned hostile.
Deshabhimani claimed Ravi, Anil, and Hakeem signed the list of accused prepared by the police
Fact Check: According to prosecution documents, the three identified the accused during the police investigation. But criminal lawyers Onmanorama spoke with said the police jeopardised the case by not conducting a proper test identification parade (TIP) in the case.
In cases where the witnesses are not known to the accused, a TIP is necessary, said a lawyer. "Like in this case. But here, the police called the witnesses to the station and showed them the accused and asked them to identify them," he said.
That cannot be considered a TIP.
A test identification parade should be conducted by a judicial magistrate, preferably in a prison, and definitely not in the presence of police officers.
The suspect should be lined up along with innocent persons with similar descriptions, build, and ages. All suspects should not be lined up together.
The result of a TIP has only corroborative value and the witness should identify the accused in the witness box, said another lawyer. "In this case, both the police and the politicians ensured there was no conviction," he said.