Capital punishment for all 15 accused in Ranjeet murder case

Ranjeet Sreenivas, 15 accused in the case. Photo: Manorama

Alappuzha: The Mavelikara Additional District Sessions Court-I on Tuesday awarded the death penalty to all 15 convicts for brutally murdering BJP leader Ranjeet Sreenivas.

Observing that the case falls under the category of the rarest of rare, Judge Sreedevi V G, awarded capital punishment to Naisam, Ajmal, Anoop, Mohammed Aslam, Abdul Kalam alias Salam, Abdul Kalam, Saffaruddin, Manshad, Jaseeb Raja, Navas, Sameer, Nazir, Zakir Hussain, Shaji Poovathungal and Shernas Ashraf.

The court had earlier convicted all of them under Section 302 (murder) of the Indian Penal Code. Besides the murder charge, the court had also found the first eight accused, who took part directly in the murder act, guilty under Sections 302 (murder), 149 (unlawful assembly), 449 (house trespass to commit an offense punishable with death), 506 (criminal intimidation) and 341 (wrongful restraint) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

The accused nine to 12, who stood guard outside the BJP’s leader’s house with deadly weapons when the assailants committed the crime, were convicted under Sections 302 r/w 149 and 447 (criminal trespass) of the IPC. The key conspirators, Zakir (13th accused), Shaji (14th accused), and Shernas (15th accused), were found guilty of criminal conspiracy under IPC Sections 120 B.

Before pronouncing the sentence, the court had also taken into consideration the report regarding the social status, mental condition, and their behaviour in prison, submitted respectively by the State government, the department of Psychiatry at Alappuzha Medical College, and the Special sub-jail Superintendent.

Meanwhile, the entire court premises had been brought under a tight security apparatus since Tuesday morning. The security arrangements were put in place by a joint team of police under the Chengannur and Kayamkulam DySps. 

The convicts, all natives of Alappuzha, were affiliated to the outlawed Popular Front of India (PFI) and its political arm, the Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI). The tenth convict, Navas Vattakattussery, is currently undergoing treatment at the Government Medical College in Thiruvananthapuram. 

Ranjeet, who was the State secretary of the BJP’s OBC Morcha and a lawyer, was hacked to death at his house at Vellakinar in Alappuzha municipality on the morning of December 19, 2021. He was murdered in front of his mother, wife, and daughter. According to investigators, the killing of Sreenivas was a retaliatory strike to avenge the murder of SDPI’s State secretary K S Shan at Kuppezham Junction at Mannancherry, Alappuzha, allegedly by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) activists the night before. The trigger for the murder of Shan was the killing of RSS worker Nandukrishna by SDPI men at Vayalar in Alappuzha on February 24, 2021.

The high-profile ‘communally tinged political killings’ had led to fears of a possible communal flare-up in Kerala. The Sreenivas murder case was investigated by a special team led by Alappuzha DySP N R Jayaraj. Special Public Prosecutor Prathap G Padickkal and advocates Sreedevi Prathap, Shilpa Sivan, and Hareesh Kattoor represented the prosecution side.

During the trial, the court recorded statements from 156 witnesses, while the prosecution also submitted approximately 1,000 documents and 100 material objects as evidence. A hit list discovered on Anoop's mobile phone, which included the names of various individuals, including Ranjeet, targeted for a retaliatory strike, proved to be the most crucial evidence.

Meanwhile, the family of Ranjeet said the court verdict brings solace to them, though their personal loss is irreparable.

“We’re fully satisfied with the court awarding the maximum sentence to all the convicts in the case. It brings to an end our long wait of 770 days. The personal loss to us is huge. But the court verdict comes as a solace…

“This is in fact a rarest of the rare cases. No one might have been so brutally murdered after storming into their house. This can’t be included in normal murder cases. They attacked him so brutally and cruelly. And myself, mother, my children and his brother were witness to that,” Ranjeet’s wife Lisha said. She was accompanied by her children and Ranjeet’s mother Vinodini.

State Police Chief Darvesh Saheb said in Thiruvananthapuram that he was fully satisfaction with the court verdict. He congratulated each member of the investigation team that probed the case and announced a reward to all of them.

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