The Kerala High Court, on Friday, July 29, sought a report from a lower court in Thiruvananthapuram over an alleged delay in the trial of a criminal case in which State Transport Minister Antony Raju is also an accused. Justice Siyad Rahman, considering a plea filed against the delay, said that the petition would be considered after the report from the Magistrate Court at Nedumangad in Thiruvananthapuram district.
Meanwhile, the government justified the delay and said that this was not the only case that has been pending before the courts. The government claimed before the court that there was a conspiracy behind the plea and the court posted the matter for further hearing after two weeks.
The case against the Minister, a leader of Janadhipathya Kerala Congress Party, which is an ally of the ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF), relates to alleged tampering of evidence in a drug seizure case reported in 1990. Antony was the lawyer of the accused in the case. The trial was yet to start in the case in which the charge sheet was filed in 2013.
The accused in the drug case - an Australian citizen - was arrested from the international airport in Thiruvananthapuram on charges of carrying hashish and the prosecution had produced an innerwear as part of the evidence against him saying the contraband was smuggled in that. The Australian was sentenced to 10 years of rigorous imprisonment. However, he was acquitted by the High Court in 1993, after his counsel proved that the innerwear was too small for him.
A police probe later showed that Antony, who had appeared for the accused, had received the underwear from the court and returned it four months later before the accused moved the High Court. Following this, a district court ordered a case to be registered against Antony and the court clerk K Jose in connection with the tampering of the material evidence.
Sources in the court said the case was deferred 22 times and Antony had never appeared before the court in any of the hearings. Antony, who contested the election in 2021, stated in his affidavit this pending case. The Minister, however, refused to comment on the High Court's observation saying the matter was sub judice.
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