'Won't say you don't do your duty but you are a disturbance': Why Aneeshya gave up finally

  • Assistant Public Prosecutor S Aneeshya's suicide notes reveal scars left behind by alleged workplace harassment and public humiliation
  • Kerala Judicial Officers' Association says not happy with local police's progress, demands investigation by independent agency or IPS-ranked officers
  • A month after Aneeshya ended her life leaving behind an archive of voice messages and handwritten notes blaming her boss, police have not booked the accused
  • RTI activists plan statewise protests and campaigns from March 1 to 8 demanding justice for Aneeshya.
Aneeshya. Photo: Manorama

Kollam: On January 14, Kollam Deputy Director of Prosecution Abdul Jalil -- the top prosecuting officer in the district -- posted a video clip from Dileep's 2015 movie '2 Countries' in the official WhatsApp group of Kollam's assistant public prosecutors (APPs).

Standing outside a Canadian court, after losing a case to Ullas Kumar (Dileep), Adv Susan (played by Lena) tells her husband Simon (Mukesh): 'I thought this was an easy case to win. Now, I might lose my job over this.'

Simon: Didn't I tell you not to underestimate the men from Kerala? They don't strut around with six-packs and spiked hair. But if you try to mess with them, you will be screwed.'

On January 21, a week after Abdul Jalil posted the 14-second sexist clip, S Aneeshya (41), ended her life. Aneeshya, an assistant public prosecutor at the Munsiff and Magistrate Court in Kollam's Paravur town, had been at the receiving end of alleged workplace harassment since November 2023.

Though she left behind an archive of distressed voice messages and handwritten notes blaming Kollam Deputy Director of Prosecution (DDP) Abdul Jalil and her junior colleague at the Paravur court Assistant Public Prosecutor Shyam Krishna K R for driving her to take the extreme step, police have not charged them with abetment of suicide (Section 306 of IPC), a cognisable (serious) offence which attracts a punishment of up to 10 years. "It's been one month since my daughter's gone but the police have not yet registered an FIR," said Aneeshya's mother Prasanna P M.

Aneeshya's mother Prasanna PM. Photo: Onmanorama

First, the Paravur Police and then the Kollam District Crime Branch have been investigating the case under Section 174 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) which deals with unnatural death. An FIR under section 174 "cannot be construed as an FIR in the eye of the law", ruled Kerala High Court in 2023 in a case between the State of Kerala vs Malappuram's K Krishnan whose daughter ended her life. Once a cognisable offence is made out, an FIR has to be registered under Section 154 of the CrPC, the court said. The first section is to find how a person died, and the second section is to find the role, if any, of the accused in the crime. One month on, Kerala Police are still stuck on how Aneeshya died and have not moved in to investigate the accused responsible for her death, said her family.

Opening up to Onmanorama, Aneeshya's mother Prasanna shared the contents of her 19-page suicide note written in Malayalam and English in a black diary, the voice messages, and the conversations they had in the house.

"My daughter was a strong self-made woman. She loved life. She used to go to the gym every day at 5 am... She must have given up (on life) only because the torture became unbearable," said the mother, collecting flowers for her evening prayers in her courtyard.

Her house 'Prashanti' (Peace) sits next to the Government Higher Secondary School at Nedungolam -- known for its mangrove forest -- in Paravur, 20km from Kollam. The black name board atop the gate read: S Aneeshya, BA, LLB, Assistant Public Prosecutor. A golden plaque on the wall gave the name of Aneeshya's husband of 17 years: K N Ajith Kumar, B.A.L., LL.B, District Judge. He is posted at Mavelikara Additional District Court and comes home on weekends.

Aneeshya with husband. Photo: Special arrangement

Her father Sathyadevan, who retired as a signalman from the Army, has hearing disabilities.
In one of the voice messages Aneeshya sent to her friends on January 20, on the eve of her last day, she said: "You know my father and mother are not keeping well. I have the responsibility to take care of them. I am going after taking care of all".

Aneeshya, as per her notes and messages, faced isolation and public humiliation. She was allegedly labelled a 'disturbance' by Abdul Jalil for questioning the practice of assistant public prosecutors skipping office on non-court days, and APPs and the DPP allegedly leaving the jurisdiction without permission. "This must be the first case where a woman ended her life fighting to uphold constitutional morality," said a family member.

To be sure, the Department of Home suspended Deputy Director of Prosecution Abdul Jalil and Assistant Public Prosecutor Shyam Krishna on January 31, pending an inquiry. "But without an FIR against them, there is no case against them. Their suspension will have to be revoked and they will be back soon," said Adv Jose Kundra, a confidant of Aneeshya.

When contacted, assistant public prosecutor Shyam Krishna said Aneeshya thought up the grievances which were not there like in the Malayalam film Manichitrathazhu, alleging she might have been suffering from multiple personality disorder. "Because her voice messages did not sound as if she was lying," he said. The inquiry report will bring out the facts, he said. "But then, they (her family) will say we influenced the inquiry," said Shyam Krishna.

Aneeshya S on the day she became a member of Kollam Bar Association in February 2006. Photo: Special arrangement

Humiliation continues after her death, says family
Aneeshya's family said she had acute migraine and consulted several medical specialists to find the cause of her headache. "She met gastroenterologists, ENT specialists, neurologists, and eye specialists. She also met a psychiatrist to know if stress was the reason," said her close family member.

"Her medical records will speak for themselves. If humiliating her even after her death is their best option to wriggle out of the case, let them try that," the family member said. Adv Jose Kurian, who has known Aneeshya since 2015, said Aneeshya started as an APP at Chavara Court in 2015, then worked at Thalassery Sub-Divisional Magistrate Court, Koothuparamba Magistrate Court, Karunagappally Court, and was at Kollam Magistrate Court in 2018 before joining Paravur Court. "There was no complaint against her from any of these courts or magistrates," he said. "Personally, she came across as any self-respecting working woman," he said.

The deceased Assistant Public Prosecutor of Paravur Magistrate Court, S Aneeshya. Photo: Manorama News

RTI queries that triggered Jalil
DPP Abdul Jalil posted the sexist video clip in the official WhatsApp group of APPs three days after he received the 19-question RTI petition that sought to expose the alleged irregularities in the Deputy Directorate of Prosecution in Kollam.

It was filed by Adv Jose Kundra but the majority of the assistant public prosecutors rightly suspected that Aneeshya was behind it. The RTI petition was delivered at the DDP's office around 2.30 pm on January 11, said Adv Jose.

Within half an hour, he said he got a call from John, an assistant public prosecutor at Grama Nyayalaya at Perinad in Kollam. "He wanted to know who was behind the RTI petition. He questioned me as he is cross-examining a witness in a court," said Adv Jose.

Adv Jose said he lied that questions were sent on behalf of an accused from Parippally but John was convinced Aneeshya was behind it.

The RTI petition included questions such as: whether APPs come to the office on non-court days, whether they mark their attendance the following day, do APPs remain in their jurisdiction on non-court days, and have police filed applications for production warrants directly because of the unavailability of APP?

APPs are allowed to skip courts one day of their choice in a week to do office work. "That day is called non-APP day. But APPs often do not turn up at the office on non-APP days," a government advocate in Kollam said on condition of anonymity.

In Aneeshya's suicide note, she wryly wrote assistant public prosecutors (APPs) treated 'non-APP day as no-APP day'.

The photograph that started the trouble
Aneeshya got the goat of DDP Abdul Jalil when she started questioning his alleged discriminatory practices and the "unauthorised absence" of her colleague Shyam Krishna in November 2023.

On the night of November 4, a Saturday, she was not well and could not appear when an accused was produced in the court. The day before she worked till 1 am.

She informed DDP Abdul Jalil and applied for casual leave. "Yet, the DDP rejected her leave application. Her husband took her to KIMS in Thiruvananthapuram after she applied online for a commuted leave (usually taken in the case of emergency)," said her mother Prasanna.

On the day her leave application was rejected, Abdul Jalil and Shyam Krishna checked into a hotel in Thiruvananthapuram to attend a wedding on November 5, a Sunday, said her family. "They did not take permission to leave their jurisdiction. Their mobile phones' tower location will prove they were together and in Thiruvananthapuram," said a family member of Aneeshya.

On December 23, 2023, Aneeshya sent her office assistant Ratheesh to Shyam Krishna's office to collect a file related to a counter case. "When Ratheesh found his office closed, Aneeshya asked him to take a photograph of the closed office," said the family member. But all hell broke loose after that, and the DDP and Shyam Krishna started targeting Aneeshya, he said.

In one voice message, she said: "(The superiors) had no problem with the APP office being closed when the APP is not on leave but they have a problem with me taking the photograph of the closed office."

"I'm under a lot of stress... I'm slipping into a breakdown," she said, choking on her words. "They are creating a situation where I cannot work there...," she trailed off in that message.

Shyam Krishna said his application for leave and permission to leave the jurisdiction on December 23 was sent on December 20, and the leave was sanctioned on December 22. Onmanorama has reviewed the email dated December 20. But the DDP's proceedings granting the leave were a hard copy, not an email. Aneeshya's family said Shyam Krishna was on casual leave from December 26 to 29 (Tuesday to Friday), and the leaves were sanctioned beforehand. But the casual leave for December 23 (Saturday) was sanctioned with a backdate on December 22, after she took the photograph of the closed office, they alleged.

Humiliated for a typo
After the photograph incident, the office attendant from Aneeshya's office was assigned to Shyam Krishna's office on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. "The last three days of the week are called criminals days because criminal cases are taken up by her court. When she is the busiest, she was denied an assistant just to hurt her work," said her family member.

Shyam Krishna admitted that he requested the help of an office assistant after the photo incident. "The request was granted by the Director of Prosecution. I have 16,000 cases pending in my court while Aneeshya has only around 650 to 700 cases," he said.

Following that, the DPP called Aneeshya to his office one day saying there was an error in her confidential report, said her mother Prasanna. She drove 30 minutes and reached his office in the Collectorate. "In front of everybody, the DDP pointed out that the 'g' in the word 'charge' was typed 'f'. Aneeshya offered to correct the mistake with a pen but the DDP made her drive back to her office in Paravur, type out a new submission, and re-send it. If that is not harassment, what is!" she said.

Aneeshya S on the day she enrolled as an advocate with the Bar Council of India in Kochi in December 2005. Photo: Special arrangement

A conference to target Aneeshya?
DPP Abdul Jalil convened a meeting of all 18 assistant public prosecutors of Kollam district on January 19. Aneeshya knew the RTI was the agenda and she was the target, said Prasanna. "So she kept the phone recorder on throughout the conference that lasted for around two hours," said her mother.

Aneeshya also called Adv Jose to come to the DDP's office that day. In the conference, Abdul Jalil singled out Aneeshya and mockingly read out each of the RTI questions and also her confidential report, alleged her family.

After Abdul Jalil ended his public humiliation of Aneeshya, she said she wanted to respond. "But he said there was no need to respond and Aneeshya would be served with a memo soon," the family member, who heard the audio said.

According to the suicide note, an unfazed Aneeshya told the DDP: "I do my duty well. Very well. Then what is the problem." To that Abdul Jalil allegedly responded: "I won't say you don't do your duty. But you are a disturbance".

Shyam Krishna said Abdul Jalil would not speak to the media. Speaking for him, he said the DDP read out the RTI questions in the meeting but not Aneeshya's Confidential Report. "He did not mention her name even though APPs asked him who filed the RTI," Shyam Krishna said. "Everything else is a lie," he said.

'You will be transferred to Kasaragod'
When she came out of the meeting, she looked distraught, said Adv Jose Kundra, who was waiting for Aneeshya outside the DDP's office. "She could not even open the door of her car," he said.

They ganged up and isolated her in the meeting. "She cried and told me the DDP read aloud her CR (confidential report) in the meeting," said Adv Jose.

He said while they were talking, a government pleader and additional public prosecutor at Additional District & Sessions Court - II Vinod V gestured for Aneeshya to come to him. (Unlike assistant public prosecutors, who enter the service through PSC, public prosecutors are political appointees with a tenure.)

Aneeshya returned from Adv Vinod's meeting after 15 or 20 minutes and looked shattered, said Adv Jose. "She told me that Vinod spoke to her disrespectfully using words such as 'edi' and 'podi'. She said Vinod threatened to transfer her to Kasaragod if she did not get the RTI petition withdrawn," he said.

Vinod reportedly denied calling Aneeshya or speaking with her that day. "I filed an RTI with the District Collector and the District Judge seeking footage from CCTV cameras on the collectorate premises. The Collector replied saying the footage was taken by the Crime Branch investigating the case. The District Judge's office is yet to respond," he said.

The Last Nail
The events on January 19, Friday, at the DDP's office were the last nail for Aneeshya. She started jotting down everything that happened to her in the diary. "She has never written a personal diary before," said her mother Prasanna.

"Shyam and DDP Jalil harassed me at DDP's office on January 19," Aneeshya wrote in the diary on January 20.

"I cannot tolerate any more harassment from the DDP's side. I am ending my life," she wrote in the suicide note. In a voice message sent to her friends, she said: "It has gone out of my hands. Sorry. I am documenting everything. A to Z I have brought home everything from the office. I am preparing the evidence. I will send it to the media or wherever it has to be sent". She felt let down by her colleagues. "Why should I live in this wretched world where there is no value for truth and justice!" she said, her breath heavy. "Why should I live? I cannot stand so much pressure... No one has the courage to speak up for me."

Suspension, investigation and protests
Four days after her death, the Director General of Prosecution T A Shaji asked Sheeba K, Deputy Director of Prosecution (headquarters) to conduct a fact-finding inquiry and submit a report in two weeks. On January 31, she submitted her report after taking the statements of Aneeshya's family members, friends, and Jalil and Shyam Krishna. "I have sent that report to the government," said Adv T A Shaji without revealing the content of the report. He, however, said there would be clarity only after the police completed their investigation.

Meanwhile, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan told the Assembly that the police investigation into the case has been handed over to the Kollam City Crime Branch. Calls made over three days to Crime Branch Assistant Commissioner of Police Shibu who is heading the investigation, went unanswered. He did not reply to the text messages either. The Kollam Bar Association has demanded an inquiry either by a retired or serving judge.

The Kerala Judicial Officers' Association -- a collective of magistrates and judges -- has written to the High Court of Kerala and the government seeking an investigation by an IPS officer. The association, in its memorandum, expressed concern about the lack of progress in the investigation despite a month having passed. "The investigation conducted by the police, too, is not hopeful and helpful. As the allegations are against officials with whom the local police have a close association, an investigation conducted by such police personnel may not bring fair results," it said and sought the High Court's intervention to entrust the investigation with officers of IPS rank or any other independent investigating agency.

The Deshiya Vivaravakasha Kutayima (National Right to Information Collective) said it is launching an eight-day protest seeking justice for Aneeshya. "From March 1 to 7, we will be organising protest meetings, street plays, and stump speeches across Kerala to awaken the public consciousness on the institutional murder of Aneeshya," said RTI activist K V Shaji, who is coordinating the protests. On March 8, the collective will organise a day and night hunger strike in front of the Secretariat, he said.

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