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Supreme Court Seeks In Sealed Cover Files Relating To Premature Release Plea Of Kalluvathukkal Hooch Case Convict Manichan

Mehal Jain
13 May 2022 2:45 PM GMT
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In a plea for premature release of accused Manichan in the Kalluvathukkal Hooch Tragedy case, the Supreme Court on Friday directed the Kerala State Advisory Board to produce the original file pertaining to him in sealed cover, along with reasons why his application for release could not be decided for the last four months.

Earlier, the Court had directed the State Level Advisory Committee to consider the representation within three months from the date of its presentation. At
the last hearing on May 6
, when the state sought to file its reply in a sealed cover, the Court had granted it one week's time to state on affidavit its stand regarding the relief claimed in this petition. The Court had added that it would be open to the state to file a formal application claiming privilege in respect of certain documents, which he (counsel for the state) submits, "the State is of the opinion that the same need not be shared with the petitioner or to be made public owing to the sensitivity of the contents thereof"
On Friday, the bench of Justices A. M. Khanwilkar and J. B. Pardiwala were told by the advocate for the petitioner (Manichan's wife), "An application has been filed to submit some documents in sealed cover by them. It is not even been filed by the head of department. It is preposterous. There is no application of mind."
Justice Khanwilkar; "An application has been filed to submit some documents in sealed cover. What is your problem? How do we decide the issue of premature release without looking at what is weighing with them? By judicial order, we cannot do it. It is the prerogative of the Executive. Please take it from us that we are not going to be influenced by any document. If the law does not permit it, it is not permitted. He wants to produce something in sealed cover, and now he has moved a formal application also. You may resist that application, that is a different matter. We will not look at it. But how do we decide your petition then? We can then only direct the board to take an expeditious decision. What oher relief can we grant you?"
The advocate for the petitioner urged that 2 other accused have been granted interim relief by the Court.
Justice Khanwilkar: "With reference to interim relief, he (the state counsel) is pointing out something which he says is confidential. Can we not have a look at it? Is it a matter of right that you should be prematurely released? You are asking for interim relief. He says, 'don't grant interim relief on the facts of this case'. But he says, 'I cannot disclose it on affidavit and I have filed a sealed cover'. You can oppose it. But if we don't look at it, then what can be done? There are certain security matters which cannot be placed on record. Unless we look at it, we don't know what it is, what he wants to point out, he is not disclosing it in open court, he says he cannot file an affidavit. If we reject his application, where do we stand? He will not disclose the facts which he cannot disclose for security reasons and under law, he can claim confidentiality of those documents. You day confidentiality should not be permitted. What should we do, tell us?"
Advocate for the petitioner: "Your Lordships may please dismiss this application and let the state advisory board take a decision"
Justice Khanwilkar to the state counsel: "Let the advisory board state that we cannot take a decision because of '1., 2. and 3.' reasons. Let them give it to us on file. Let them say that I am not the state and why we are unable to decide the matter and that we cannot disclose the reason on affidavit. We want to know the reasons why the proposal for premature release has not been decided and remained pending for four months. We want to know why the advisory board has not taken the decision so far and why the interim relief should not be granted"
The bench then dictated the following order- "We have perused the application (to submit sealed cover) filed by the state. The application has not been filed by the advisory board...The advisory board be caused to produce the original file pertaining to the petitioner with reasons why the application (for premature release) could not be decided for the last four months. The file be produced in sealed cover through the advocate appearing for the state of Kerala on the next date. To be listed on May 19"
In February, the Court had recorded that from the response filed before this Court, it is noticed that the Advisory Board has considered the case of accused No. 7 (Chandran @ Manichan) in its meeting convened on 15.02.2021; that the Advisory Board unanimously decided not to recommend the proposal of accused No. 7 for premature release.
"Instead of examining the correctness of the reasons weighed with the Advisory Board, as noted in paragraph 12 at page 19 of the counter affidavit, we would accede to the submission made by the learned counsel for the State that accused No. 7 can make representation to the State Level Advisory Committee constituted under G.O.(P) No. 17/2021/Home dated 12.02.2021 issued as per S.R.O. No. 171/2021 vide amendment of 2014 Rules. We direct the State Level Advisory Committee to consider the representation within three months from the date of its presentation by accused No. 7 and report compliance in that regard", the bench had ordered.
The hooch tragedy which occured in Kalluvathukkal of Kollam district in Kerala in 2001 claimed 31 lives.


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