Crime
The court will be announcing the final trial date on March 20.

The Additional Sessions Court IV of Kottayam will schedule the final trial date of the controversial Kevin Joseph murder case on March 20. On Wednesday, the court charged all 14 accused in the case with murder, following the completion of the framing of charges.

The accused persons, including Shaun Chocko, brother of Kevin’s partner Neenu, have been charged with IPC sections 120 B (criminal conspiracy), 34 (Acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention), 449 (House-trespass in order to commit offence), 427 (Mischief causing damage to the amount of Rs 50)  506 (2) (criminal intimidation), 323 (voluntarily causing hurt), 342 (wrongful confinement) 364, 364 A (kidnapping or abducting in order to murder) and 302 (murder).

Special prosecutor CS Ajayan in the preliminary trial argued that a possibility of accidental drowning in waist-deep water was minimal as the victim, having grown up near the Meenachil river in Kottayam, knows how to swim well. He also added that there was strong circumstantial evidence to prove that it was culpable homicide. The prosecution had also produced 180 documents, 176 witnesses, records of phone calls made by three of the accused, DNA tests results and the three vehicles used for Kevin’s abduction as evidence, according to reports.

The defence had argued that only section 304 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) would apply in the case as Kevin had accidentally drowned while attempting to escape from the custody of the accused.

The special investigation team which had probed that case had also charged the accused, including Neenu’s father and brother, with culpable homicide, kidnapping, conspiracy, breaking into the house, etc. among other sections.

In May 2018, Kevin Joseph (23), a Dalit Christian boy from Kottayam who had fallen in love with Neethu (21), was found dead and floating in the Chaliyekkara river in Kollam. Kevin and Neenu had decided to get married and had applied to get their marriage registered, despite Neenu’s family’s opposition due to the boy’s caste. To coerce Kevin to return Neenu to them, a 13 member gang sent by the Neenu’s family abducted Kevin and his cousin’s Aneesh from their house in Kottayam, held them hostage, and finally murdered Kevin while he attempted to escape from their clutches.

Fourteen accused including Neenu’s brother Shanu Chacko (prime accused) and Neenu’s father have been named in the case and the prosecution has argued the case to be a ‘caste killing’. The other accused in the case have been identified as Shanu’s friends Niyas Mon, Niyas Ismail, Riyas, Chacko (Shanu’s father), Manu Muraleedharan, Shifin Sajad, N Nishad, Tittu Jerome, Vishnu, Fazil Sherif, Shinu and Reneesh.

The Kottayam Additional Districts Sessions court had ordered the proceedings of the case to be expedited to complete the final trial in 6 months.

Also read: Kevin murder case: Why defence’s ‘accidental drowning’ theory is unviable