The Kerala High Court on Monday granted bail to ten CPI(M) workers allegedly involved in the Thalassery post-poll violence which culminated in the death of one and injury of another Indian Union Muslim League worker.
Justice K Haripal while releasing all the accused on bail proclaimed that Thalassery being a hub of political rivalry and clashes, a huge number of sessions cases are pending in the courts in the locality.
"In such circumstances, it is unlikely that the trial of the case will be able to be taken up in the near future. That would result in protraction of trial and indefinite detention of the petitioners in custody. Such pre-trial detention is not expedient nor in public interest", the Court stated.
The petitioners were accused of post-poll violence that took place in the Thalassery Taluk in Kannur District allegedly between CPI(M) and IUML workers on April 6, 2021.
These clashes had resulted in grievous injuries to two IUML workers Mansoor and Muhsin. Mansoor later succumbed to his injuries.
Senior Advocate P Vijayabhanu appeared for the petitioners and submitted that on conclusion of the investigation, the final charge sheet has already been laid, all recoveries have been effected and therefore, their further detention is not warranted.
He pointed out that even 10-year-old sessions cases were pending at the trial court and therefore, argued that detaining the petitioners indefinitely in jail was not in public interest.
Advocate C.K Sreedharan, appearing for the victim's mother, strongly opposed the application.
It was contended that it was a pre-planned political murder committed by the activists of the ruling party.
Moreover, it was claimed that granting bail to such persons accused of a heinous crime would embolden them to repeat such political violence in future and will subvert trial itself.
Findings of the Court:
The Court was of the opinion that since the district has always been a hub of political rivalry, their trial would take time considering the pendency of cases before the trial court.
The Court observed that the total number of sessions cases pending in the Thalassery division is 5,498, of which murder cases where the custodial trial is intended is 8.
A report filed by the Investigating Officer stated that though the native place of the accused persons and the place of occurrence is politically sensitive in nature, the law and order situation is at present satisfactory.
Taking all these factors into account, the Court granted bail to the petitioners.
"No doubt, the allegations against the accused are very grave. Still, so long as the final report is laid, it is not in the interest of justice, unless overwhelming reasons are made out, to keep the suspects in custody. The presumption of innocence is always the guiding factor for the Court. The accused can be detained in custody indefinitely only if very strong circumstances are made out," the Court said.
However, the Bench observed that the incident, which occurred on the eve of the latest Assembly elections in April 2021, was undoubtedly the culmination of political rivalry.
"I have no doubt that the incident was the culmination of political rivalry between the activists of the CPI(M), who are the petitioners and rival political group i.e., Indian Union Muslim League."
On a different footing, the Court also considered the practice of Courts to reduce overcrowding in prisons during the ongoing pandemic.
"We are still in the grip of the Covid pandemic. The Hon'ble Supreme Court has issued various guidelines for easing the crowd in prisons. It is the policy of Courts to ease overcrowding in prisons and therefore, that aspect also impels this Court to think of granting bail to the petitioner," the order reads.
The Court imposed stringent conditions including execution of the bond and two solvent sureties of ₹2,00,000 and surrender of passports.
The Court also ordered that the petitioners shall not enter Kannur Revenue district until the examination of all material witnesses except for the purpose of attending courts.
Case Title: Shinos KK v. State of Kerala