Kasaragod: On August 22, Ibrahim M V (73), father of an IUML councillor in Kanhangad, approached the Additional Sessions Court (I) of Kasaragod seeking bail. He came armed with a direction from the High Court of Kerala that his application for regular bail "shall be considered and decided positively" on the same day it is filed, considering his age and principles laid down by the Supreme Court on granting bail to and arresting an accused. The bail application for Ibrahim was moved by Adv N A Khalid, the IUML's Kasaragod district vice president.
But additional district judge A Manoj ignored the High Court judgment by Justice K Babu and remanded Ibrahim in judicial custody. He was absconding since he was charged with sexually assaulting an eight-year-old girl in November 2022.
However, Ibrahim immediately got admitted in the District Hospital in Kanhangad. The District Medical Officer attested to the court that he was under antibiotic medication, was diabetic, and had a respiratory illness.
After 12 days in the hospital, he was discharged and sent to the Kasaragod District Jail on Monday, September 4.
High Court kept in the dark?
On November 27, 2022, Hosdurg police received a complaint against Ibrahim that he sexually abused an eight-year-old girl. Police registered a case and charged him with Section 354 of the IPC for 'assaulting woman with the intent to outrage her modesty', and Section 9 (m) of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act for sexually assaulting a child below 12 years. The punishment for the two crimes ranged between five to seven years in prison (Section 10 of POCSO Act).
Soon after, Ibrahim went into hiding, said Hosdurg Station House Officer - Inspector Shine K P. During the investigation, police found the alleged crimes against the girl were graver than initially reported. "So we dropped the three charges pressed while registering the FIR and brought in three new charges against Ibrahim," said Shine, the investigating officer
Police charged Ibrahim with Section 376 (AB) for "raping a girl under 12 years of age", and Sections 5 (m) of POCSO Act for "committing aggravated penetrative sexual assault on a child below 12 years".
These two charges attract a minimum punishment of 20 years of rigorous punishment and may extend to imprisonment for life (Section 6 (1) of POCSO Act).
During the early days of the investigation, Ibrahim moved the High Court seeking anticipatory bail. But on March 2, 2023, he withdrew the petition.
But after the Hosdurg Police submitted the charge sheet, Ibrahim moved the high court again on August 7 seeking anticipatory bail.
But according to High Court order, he told the court that he was facing charges under Section 354 of the IPC and Sections 9 (m) and 10 of the POCSO Act.
He was represented by Adv T Madhu in the High Court and the public prosecutor was Adv M K Pushpalatha.
Hosdurg Station House Officer was also party to the bail plea.
When contacted, the public prosecutor Pushpalatha said on Monday, September 4, that she recalled the sections against Ibrahim were Section 354 of the IPC and Sections 9(m) and 10 of the POCSO Act.
When she was told that those charges were not there in the charges sheet, she said she did not remember the instructions she got from the police.
Hosdurg SHO and investigating officer Shine told Onmanorama that the high court (or the public prosecutor) did not ask for a report from the police.
A public prosecutor in Kasaragod said it appeared that the High Court of Kerala was kept in the dark on the charges against Ibrahim. This is at a time when the reporting of sex crimes against children has increased by more than fourfold in 10 years to 4,582 cases from 1,002 in 2012.
Based on the charges before the High Court, the single-bench judge K Babu directed the Kasaragod Additional Sessions Court to grant him bail the same day he filed for bail.
When he approached the lower court with the High Court judgment, the additional sessions judge Manoj noticed the mismatch between the charges in the high court judgment and the charge sheet. "We called for a report from the investigating officer the same day. The report we got also had the old charges," said an official of the court.
Police blamed it on a clerical mistake of cutting and pasting the charges from the FIR documents. The second report had the revised sections of 376 (AB) of the IPC and Sections 5 (m) and 6 (1) of the POCSO Act.
"Based on the new facts, the additional sessions court (I) remanded him in custody. But we don't know what happened in the High Court," said the official.
Meanwhile, the police have sought the custody of Ibrahim to conduct a potency test on him. "We have a strong case. Medical reports have proved the girl suffered aggravated sexual assault," he said.
After 12 days in hospital, Ibrahim is likely to be produced before the additional sessions court on Tuesday, September 5.