The Kerala High Court on Wednesday, August 3, stayed all proceedings against Transport Minister Antony Raju in an evidence tampering case dating back to 1990. A single bench was hearing Raju's petition requesting quashing of the case as it had no merit at all. After hearing his petition, the court ordered that all further proceedings in the case be stayed for a month and also served a notice to the second accused in the case.
The interim order has come as a relief for Raju as the trial in the case was all set to begin in a lower court in the state capital district. The High Court will now hear the case after a month.
Incidentally, this case, which first created waves three decades ago, caught the High Court's attention last week when it came down heavily on the slow progress in the case. The court, which was considering a public interest litigation filed by a private party on the delay, asked a local court in the state capital city to explain the reason for the delays and posted the case after two weeks.
The case dates back to 1990 when an Australian national, Andrew Salvatore Cervelli, was caught with hashish concealed in his underwear — a dark blue one at the Thiruvananthapuram airport. At that time, Raju was working as a junior advocate in the state capital city and his senior had appeared for the accused in court. Later, Cervellie was acquitted after his lawyers argued that the under garment produced as evidence was of small size and not fitting on the accused. The investigating officer then moved the High Court alleging the point of tampering of evidence. After this, the Vanchiyoor police in the capital city registered a case in 1994.
The investigation later revealed Jose, a court clerk along with Raju, had tampered with the evidence (the under garment — by taking it and re-stitching it and made it to the size of that of a young boy) and the duo were charged with conspiracy, tampering of documents, cheating and destruction of evidence.
Then again this case went into the deep freeze, but re-emerged a few weeks ago when a journalist put all the case documents in public domain through his social media account.