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Disheartening To Note Criminal Proceedings Of A Crime Of 1992 Is Yet To Attain Finality: Kerala HC Directs Sister Abhaya Murder Case Trial On A Day To Day Basis [Read Order]

LIVELAW NEWS NETWORK
6 Oct 2020 2:47 PM GMT
Disheartening To Note Criminal Proceedings Of A Crime Of 1992 Is Yet To Attain Finality: Kerala HC Directs Sister Abhaya Murder Case Trial On A Day To Day Basis [Read Order]
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It is disheartening to note that criminal proceedings pertaining to a crime of 1992 is yet to attain finality, whether it be by reason of providence or design, the Kerala High Court remarked while disposing a petition filed by the accused in Sister Abhaya Murder Case.Justice VG Arun directed the Special Court to reschedule the Trial to the nearest possible date and permit the Senior...

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It is disheartening to note that criminal proceedings pertaining to a crime of 1992 is yet to attain finality, whether it be by reason of providence or design, the Kerala High Court remarked while disposing a petition filed by the accused in Sister Abhaya Murder Case.

Justice VG Arun directed the Special Court to reschedule the Trial to the nearest possible date and permit the Senior Counsel appearing for the accused to conduct cross-examination through video conference mode, if such an application is made.

The accused Father Thomas Kottoor and Sister Sephy had apporached the High Court seeking a direction to defer the examination of witnesses scheduled from 14.09.2020 to 09.10.2020 by the Special Court, contending that in view of the pandemic situation, it is impossible for the Senior Counsel appearing for the accused to travel from Ernakulam, where he is residing, to Thiruvananthapuram for conducting cross-examination of the prosecution witnesses.

The CBI, opposing this plea, submitted before the court that this case is the oldest pending criminal case in the State and that the situation arising from the spread of Covid-19 pandemic cannot be projected as a reason for further delaying disposal of the case. It was also submitted that the Special Judge's Court is equipped with facility to conduct trial through video conferencing and that, if necessary, the defence counsel can conduct cross-examination of witnesses through the virtual mode.

"The harsh reality of the threat of corona virus continuing for some more time has to be accepted by all. The functioning of the courts should continue, lest the justice delivery system will come to a grinding halt. To ensure such functioning, the stakeholders should adapt to alternative methods like online filing and video-conferencing. The issues arising due to the pandemic situation and the resultant lock down has been dealt with by the Apex Court and this Court through its directives. In those directives, video conferencing is one of the accepted modes to be resorted. ", Justice VG Arun observed.

The court, disposing of the petition, directed that the trial in this case shall be rescheduled to the nearest possible date and examination of witnesses be conducted on a day-to-day basis, as mandated by Section 309(1) Cr.P.C. "If, for any reason, the Senior Counsel is unable to be physically present in court for conducting the cross-examination of the witnesses, permission shall be granted for conducting cross-examination through video conferencing mode, on appropriate request in that regard being made. In such event, a junior counsel with technical know-how shall be permitted to be present in court to assist the Senior Counsel. All efforts shall be taken to maintain audio and video quality throughout the video-conferencing. Any technical snag occurring during cross-examination can be brought to the notice of the learned Special Judge.", the judge directed.

Background

Abhaya's body was found in the well of the ST Pius Convent in Kottayam on March 27, 1992. She was an inmate of the convent. Initially, the case was investigated by the local police and state crime branch which concluded that Abhaya had committed suicide. However, the case was taken over by CBI on March 29, 1993. CBI's case is that, on the night of March 27, 1992, Abhaya allegedly saw Kottoor and Sephy in a compromising position, following which the three accused hacked her with an axe and threw her into the well.

Last year, the Supreme Court had dismissed the special leave petitions filed by Thomas Kottoor and Sephy against a April 9 judgment of the High Court of Kerala which had upheld the trial court's dismissal of their discharge pleas in the Sister Abhaya murder case.

Earlier this year, the High Court of Kerala ruled that the results of narco-analysis and brain mapping process done on the accused in the sensational Sister Abhaya murder case cannot be used in evidence.

Case name: FR. THOMAS KOTTOOR vs. CBI
Case no.: Crl.MC.No.3911 OF 2020
Coram: JUSTICE V.G.ARUN
Counsel: Sr. Adv B.RAMAN PILLAI for accused, Adv SASTHAMANGALAM S. AJITHKUMAR for CBI

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