Outside the District Sessions Court in Thrissur a small media contingent was getting ready to cover the verdict in the most sensational murder that Kerala had witnessed in 2015. Ten minutes past 10 am, security guard Chandraboseâ€™s family - his mother, wife and son - reached the court, flanked by relatives. They entered the court, heads down and without talking to anyone outside.
Just about a year ago, on the night of January 29, 2015, the family received a life-changing jolt. Chandrabose had been viciously attacked by businessman Nisham, who was agitated with the security guards for not opening the gates into his posh gated community promptly. Chandrabose succumbed to his injuries on February 16, 2015.
Soon after Chandraboseâ€™s family came in, a man in a white shirt came inside the court. He had a striking resemblance to Nisham, and he was Nishamâ€™s brother Abdul Razak. He moved away as the cameras focused on him.
At 10.30 am, a Kerala police van entered the premises, and beedi tycoon Nisham stepped out. Dressed in a white shirt and jeans, a clean-shaven Nisham did not look perturbed and ignored the cameras.
Chandraboseâ€™s wife Jamanthi and the rest of the family were seated on the right side of the courtroom, as Nisham was brought in. Uncomfortable perhaps at the proximity, they were told to shift to the left as soon as Nisham came in.
Jamanthi and her mother-in-law Ambujam, son and another family member sat on a bench. She sat with her eyes closed tightly, her hands on her chain, whispering, praying to God.
There was palpable tension as Judge KP Sudheer, who has been holding the trial on a daily basis for the past few months started reading out the verdict.
Nisham stood in an enclosure, looking around, not speaking to anyone. Sometimes, a nervous smile could be seen on his face. Abdul Khader, Nishamâ€™s uncle, sat on the other end of the box. â€śHe is not guilty. Even if he gets punished, it will only be for culpable homicide not amounting to murder,â€ť he told us confidently.
After dealing with three other cases, the judge turned to Nishamâ€™s case. In one sentence, the judge sealed Nishamâ€™s fate, holding him guilty for murder. He then called Nisham to come forward and said, â€śWhat do you have to say?â€ť
Replying to the judgeâ€™s questions, Nisham said his wife and kid were dependent on him. â€śMy mother has a pacemaker,â€ť he said. â€śAnything else?â€ť the judge asked. â€śGive me a lenient sentence,â€ť Nisham almost whispered. â€śWe live in a joint family, and I have huge responsibilities,â€ť he said.
Public Prosecutor Udayabhanu, a man who had been staying in Thrissur for the past few months to deal with the case, stood up, and started a passionate argument on why Nisham deserved the death sentence and not just life imprisonment.
The entire proceeding till then was in English. The News Minute reporters were on the right side of the court sandwiched between the victimâ€™s family and Nisham's uncle.
Anish, the second witness in the case was relieved as we told him that Nisham had been found guilty. â€śHe should be in jail forever,â€ť Anish said. â€śWhy are you scared of the consequences if he comes out?â€ť we asked. â€śIf I was scared, I would have changed my statement,â€ť he proudly said. Anish worked at the same security company as Chandrabose and is one of the witnesses in the case.
Next to him, 16-year-old Amal Dev, Chandraboseâ€™s son sat, his expressions unchanged. There was no relief on his face, he remained tense.
â€śDid you understand what the judge said?â€ť we asked him in a low tone. â€śNo, I didnâ€™t,â€ť he said. As we told him that his fatherâ€™s killer had been found guilty, his expression changed, the teenager just closed his eyes for some time, perhaps silently thanking God. Though Chandraboseâ€™s family can understand a bit of English, they had failed to comprehend what was unfolding in front of them.
Amal Dev slowly turned to his mother and whispered into her ears, explaining that it was over and he was found guilty. Chandraboseâ€™s wife then opened her eyes, and started watching the proceedings keenly.
Meanwhile, prosecutor Udayabhanu told the court that it was a rarest of rare crime and Nisham deserved the maximum penalty of death, â€śLook at the crime and the manner in which the injury was inflicted. The deceased was unarmed and there was simply no reason for such an attack.â€ť
â€śThis accused is a menace to society; he does not deserve to be outside jail. The Kerala police put KAAPA on him for the same reason,â€ť he told the court.
And for the first time, he started speaking in Malayalam. â€śIt was a cruel and demonic crime. A poor manâ€™s family has been orphaned; they have been pushed into dire poverty. When Chandrabose collapsed after Nisham rammed him with a car, Nisham kicked him on the head and asked, â€śHow come this dog has not died?â€ť
As they finally understood what was happening in court, Chandraboseâ€™s wife and mother burst into tears.
Udayabhanu also demanded that Nisham be made to pay Rs 5 crore as compensation to the family. â€śHe has Rs 5,000 crores. Let him pay Rs 5 crores,â€ť he said.
Nishamâ€™s lawyer then accused Udayabhanu of distorting the law and faking emotions in court. â€śReserve that for talk shows on channels, talk about law here,â€ť the defense lawyer told Udayabhanu.
The two started sparring as the defense lawyer claimed that the family being orphaned was not the issue under consideration before the court. A visibly upset Udayabhanu then countered, â€śThis is how you are mocking a poor man and his family.â€ť
Udayabhanu then spoke about the Parliament attack case and how the judge had handed the accused death penalty. Nishamâ€™s lawyer interrupted and told the judge that it was foolhardy to even compare the two cases.
â€śEverything seems foolish to you. That was about Parliament, this is about an orphaned family. You continue to mock,â€ť Udayabhanu retorted.
The judge then brought an end to the arguments announcing that the sentencing would be done on Thursday.
Chandraboseâ€™s family was the first to leave the court. Nishamâ€™s uncle looked weary by then, and told us he would meet us in court tomorrow.