Kerala Youth Fest judge's suicide: Police send phone for forensic examination

Dance teachers pay homage to P N Shaji. Photo: Manorama

Thiruvananthapuram: The police have decided to collect more evidence over the bribery case related to the Kerala University arts fest after the suicide of a Margamkali judge. The festival organisers had presented to the police only the screenshots of messages, reportedly sent to the mobile phone of the judge, Shaji Poothatta alias PN Shaji. 

The phones of the judges were with the organisers during the competition. The organisers had handed over to the police the screenshots of two messages reportedly sent to Shaji's phone. The phone has been handed over for a forensic examination since the messages were found deleted. Investigators would also check who had handled the phone during and after the Margamkali competition. Manorama News reported that the probe team claimed that no evidence was recovered so far to prove the bribery charges against Shaji.

Additionally, the police would ascertain if the messages handed over to them were received in Shaji's phone.

The screenshots showed the chest numbers of some of the competitors. The messages were reportedly sent using the automatic delete option and were automatically erased after viewing them once. The organisers claimed that the screenshots were taken before the messages were deleted.

In his statement, Shaji said some of his friends who are dance teachers in Kannur had contacted his number during the competition. Those who called him, too, confirmed the man's statement. The probe would now be extended to those who had messaged Shaji.

On Friday, the probe team will receive information about those who had contacted Shaji during the fest. However, the forensic report would take some time. 

Investigators have decided to seek the service provider's assistance to retrieve the deleted WhatsApp messages. However, it, too, would be delayed due to the legal formalities involved. 

Shaji was charged with breach of confidence, which if found guilty, would have fetched him a jail term of up to three years.

The Margamkali judge was among four people arrested — and later freed on bail — on charges of taking bribes from middlemen. He was found dead in his house in Kannur on Wednesday. A death note was found by his side.

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