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'Took The Entire System For A Ride, Has Alleged Links With Expatriate Associations': Kerala High Court In Controversial Antique Dealer's Case

Hannah M Varghese
29 Oct 2021 12:15 PM GMT
Took The Entire System For A Ride, Has Alleged Links With Expatriate Associations: Kerala High Court In Controversial Antique Dealers Case
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The Kerala High Court on Friday raised significant questions and concerns in the ongoing investigation by a Special Investigating Team against the controversial fake antique dealer Monson Mavunkal and his alleged links with expatriate associations. Justice Devan Ramachandran questioned why the police took so long to take action against the dealer when some of the officers were...

The Kerala High Court on Friday raised significant questions and concerns in the ongoing investigation by a Special Investigating Team against the controversial fake antique dealer Monson Mavunkal and his alleged links with expatriate associations. 

Justice Devan Ramachandran questioned why the police took so long to take action against the dealer when some of the officers were suspicious about his famed collection of antiques. 

"I am not casting aspersions at the moment. But this is a complete breakdown. It appears that he (Mavunkal) took the entire system for a ride; he made a fool out of everyone, including the police officers." 

The Director General of Prosecution, Advocate T.A Shaji appearing for the respondents in the matter had filed a detailed counter in the case in response to the queries posed by the Court in the last hearing. In the report, elaborate details of the cases filed against the dealer were disclosed. 

After perusing the report, the Court observed that its questions had now multiplied. 

"I'm not concerned about the criminal cases pending against him. My concern is something else; something that I avoided bringing up last time thinking you'd answer it in your report. But since you haven't, I'll pose the question now. The report says that this man was in possession of antiquities. Is there any law dealing with antiquities?"

The Court continued:

"There is a Central Act, called the Antiquities and Art Treasures Act, 1972 and it has a set of Rules as well. The competent authority to deal with these articles is the Archeological Survey Department. Now if you go through Section 2 of the Act, antiquity has been defined there. According to the Act, anything over 100 years is an antiquity, and such an item has to be compulsorily registered with the competent authority." 

The report had disclosed that two policemen had visited Mavunkal's residence on an unscheduled visit to witness the so-called antique collection. The Court thereby put forth the following questions before the respondents:  

  • Who gave these police officers information regarding this man?
  • It is disclosed that the police officers raised suspicion regarding the collection, put it on paper and forwarded the same to the concerned authorities. Were these officers not aware of the Act? Were they not curious when they saw Moses' staff or Tipu Sultan's throne, which are by all means way more than older than 100 years, if they were registered? Anybody with a cursory knowledge of law would have known that none of them was registered under the Act.
  • The report disclosed that the State Police Chief wrote to the Addl DGP to conduct a discreet enquiry into the alleged collection. Did it have anything to do with the Act? 
  • The affidavit also communicated that what was given to Mavunkal was mere police surveillance and not police protection. But the dealer's letter seeking protection was received at least 7 days after the police ordered an enquiry into his collection. So was the surveillance from the perspective of him as an accused or a dealer?  
Why Was The Fake Antique Dealer Granted Protection? Kerala High Court Demands An Answer From Police

The Court inquired if the officers were even aware of the Act. To find answers to these questions, the letters mentioned herein were directed to be produced. 

The Bench opined that most of the crimes registered against Mavunkal could have been avoided if the police had taken prompt action the first time it came across as suspicious.

" A stitch in time saves nine. The first time you had a hunch about him, you let the man continue for three years. This is my concern. Every police officer should act with a strong conviction here to bring out the truth because he has thrown dust in our eyes, misleading and deceiving the entire system."

The Court added while clarifying that it had nothing against any individual police officer:

"Today there are rape cases and POCSO cases being registered against him. All of this when the highest of authorities were visiting his residence. What is happening? Can the police really investigate this? Women and children are involved here; couldn't this have been avoided if action had been taken the first time they had a suspicion about him?" 

Regarding the alleged links of the accused with transnational associations, the Court said:

"It is in the public domain that he was involved with an association of expatriates. I don't find a mention of that anywhere on the report, and it is crucial to trace the links. My worry as a citizen of the State is whether there is a bigger issue underlying here than an ordinary con job, theft or something to do beyond international borders."

The DGP was thereby directed to obtain information if any entity having links beyond the borders of Kerala or members not resident herein were in any manner involved in the matter.

The observations came in a petition filed by the dealer's former driver, who had alleged harassment from his ex-employer and certain police officers close to him.

Advocate Thomas T Varghese appearing for the petitioner submitted that the affidavit filed by the DGP was only an attempt to whitewash the case and sought time to file a response to the same. 

The matter has been adjourned to be called on 11.11 2021. 

Case Title: Ajith E.V. v. The Commissioner of Police & Ors. 

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