The Kerala High Court on Monday granted bail to 10 of the 12 CPI(M) activists accused of killing an Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) worker at Kannur on polling day in April this year and observed that the incident was the "culmination of political rivalry" between the two parties. The case pertains to the death of 22-year-old Mansur, a native of Panoor in Kannur. Mansur was killed allegedly after a group of CPI(M) workers hurled a bomb at his brother and him on April 6.
"I have no doubt that the incident was the culmination of political rivalry between activists of the CPI(M), who are the petitioners (accused) and rival political group i.e., IUML," Justice K Haripal said. The High Court, while granting bail to the 10 accused, said that since Thalassery in Kannur -- where the crime took place -- was a "hub of political rivalry and clashes", a huge number of cases were pending in the sessions court there and therefore, "it was unlikely" that the trial would commence in the near future.
It noted that according to a report received on August 27 from the Sessions Judge in Thalassery, the total number of sessions cases pending in that division was 5,498, out of which the number of murder cases where custodial trial was intended was 8. "That means the Sessions Courts in Thalassery division are very heavy. That would result in protraction of trial and indefinite detention of the petitioners (accused) in custody. Such a pre-trial detention is not expedient nor in public interest. Moreover, we are still in the grip of the COVID pandemic."
"The 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 petitioners," the High Court said. It further said that even though the allegations against the petitioners were very serious, it was not a valid reason for detaining them in custody indefinitely as five of them were first-time offenders and the remaining were out on bail in the cases they were involved in.
"Added to this, it has come out that all the material witnesses are members or sympathisers of the IUML, rival political faction of the accused. Normally, such witnesses are not susceptible to any kind of influence that might be exerted by the accused in the event of their release on bail," the High Court said.
Considering these reasons, the court said the principle was "bail is the rule and jail the exception" and in the instant case the accused can be granted the relief subject to stringent conditions, like furnishing of a bond of Rs 2 lakh by each of them with two solvent sureties of the like amount and not to contact or influence the witnesses or tamper with the evidence.
The conditions imposed upon the accused by the High Court were -- surrendering of their passports within 10 days of release on bail, not getting involved in any crime while out on bail, not to enter Kannur revenue district until the examination of all material witnesses except for the purpose of attending courts and to appear before the Investigating Officer/trial court as and when required.
According to the prosecution, which had opposed grant of any relief to the accused, in the April 6 incident two brothers -- Muhasin and Mansur -- were attacked and grievously injured by the CPI(M) activists and the latter had later succumbed to his wounds.
Their mother, who had been impleaded as a respondent in the plea, had opposed grant of any relief to the accused, alleging that it was a pre-planned political murder and that the intended target was Muhasin who was a booth agent of IUML.
Her lawyer had told the court that the accused had attacked Muhasin and had thrown a bomb at him and while trying to save him, Mansur suffered grievous injuries in the blast and later succumbed to his wounds.
The prosecution had also told the High Court that a chargesheet was filed in July against the 12 accused, out of which one had committed suicide and another was still absconding.