Judge C Jayachandran of the Principal Sessions Court of Kottayam, adjourned the pronouncement of quantum of punishment to the 10 persons convicted in the murder of Kevin Joseph to August 27. The judge adjourned the proceedings after listening patiently to the arguments by both the defence and the prosecution for about one and a half hours.
Kevin, a 23 year old Dalit Christian man was murdered following his love affair and register marriage with a young woman called Neenu.
Ten people including Neenu's brother Shanu Chacko were convicted in the case, making this Kerala's first honour killing conviction.
On Saturday, Judge C Jayachandran allowed all the accused in the case, except first accused Shanu Chacko, to address their pleas directly to him. Two of the accused, Riyas Ibrahimkutty (fourth accused) and N Nishad (eighth accused), broke down before the judge and stated their pleas amidst sobs.
The court witnessed more dramatic scenes as the main defence lawyer, advocate Sasthamangalam Ajith Kumar became 'emotional' while ending his arguments citing a quote from the Bible. He stressed on the need to give the accused a chance to reform themselves. This argument in turn made many of the accused and their families break into loud wails.
The defence lawyer also reminded the judge several times that all the accused were young and none of them had a criminal background.
Specifying Shanu Chacko, one of the defence lawyers said, "He has never been involved in a criminal case. While deciding the verdict, this needs to be considered."
Shanu is the man who called his father and friends to inform that he had killed Kevin. Neenu had clearly told the court that her father, a Latin Christian, and her brother had told her that they would not let her marry a Dalit.
While five lawyers argued for the convicts, special Public Prosecutor CS Ajayan argued for the victim.
The prosecution asked the judge to give maximum punishment, including capital punishment, to the accused.
"The Supreme Court has stated that honour killing should be considered as rarest of the rare cases. The maximum of capital punishment should be given in such cases," advocate Ajayan said.
He also stressed that the family of the victim and the witnesses in the case should be compensated duly. Citing the case of Aneesh Sebastian, Kevin's counsin who was abducted along with him, the prosecution argued that he incurred many damages and should be compensated. Kevin was abducted from Aneesh's house and the kidnappers had vandalised the house.
"Kevin was the sole breadwinner of his family and now he is no more. The family should be compensated and an exemplary amount of fine should be imposed on the accused," he said.
All photos taken by Vishnu Prathap