Manjeshwar MLA Ashraf sentenced to 1 year in prison for assaulting official 14 years ago

Manjeshwar MLA AKM Ashraf. Photo: Manorama

Kasaragod: A magistrate court in Kasaragod sentenced Manjeshwar MLA and Indian Union Muslim League leader A K M Ashraf to one year in prison on charges of assaulting an election official nearly 14 years ago. The court also fined him Rs 10,000 on Tuesday, October 31.
Ashraf told Onmanorama he was granted bail by the court and he would appeal against the "weird verdict delivered without witness or evidence".

According to the prosecution, the incident happened in January 2010, when Ashraf was a member of the Kasargod District Panchayat board. Then Deputy Tahsildar A Damodaran, responsible for enrolling names in the Voters' List, rejected an application of one Munavar Ismail, a resident of Bangara in Manjeshwar but a native of Mysuru.

The official rejected the application saying he needed documentary proof that his name was deleted from the voters' list in Mysuru. Ashraf and panchayat member Abdulla Taja and one resident Basheer Kanila went to Manjeshwar Block Panchayat Office where the deputy tahsildar was stationed and assaulted him, said Damodaran in his complaint.

Ashraf said he only questioned the official for "unilaterally" rejecting applications for enrolment.

Based on the Deputy Tahsildar's complaint, Ashraf was charged with Sections 323 and 353 of the Indian Penal Code for voluntarily causing hurt and assaulting or using criminal force to deter a public servant from discharging his duty, respectively. They were also charged with Section 141 for unlawful assembly.

The Judicial First Class Magistrate Court found Ashraf guilty of only Section 323 for voluntarily causing hurt and handed him the maximum sentence of one year. 

He was acquitted of Section 353 of the IPC which had a maximum sentence of two years. People's representatives convicted for two years automatically lose their membership of the House with immediate effect.

"I am saddened by the verdict. I was given the maximum punishment for allegedly slapping the official, a crime I did not do and had no evidence," he said.

According to court officials, the Judicial First Class Magistrate Court (II) does not have a public prosecutor. The government had also sanctioned the withdrawal of the case. "But the Deputy Tahsildar did not give up and appointed a special prosecutor with his own money to fight the case," said an official. 

In a "hurt case", if the victim can convince the court that he or she was attacked, there is no need for another witness. "In this case, the Deputy Tahsildar was the witness and the court was convinced by his testimony," the official said.

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