While extending custody of the accused, the court said that “interest of justice has to be safeguarded not only in respect of the persons accused but also in respect of the State in order to bring the truth into light.”

Murder was a terrorist act NIA gets extended custody of Ramalingam case accused
news Crime Wednesday, May 08, 2019 - 17:40

The special NIA court has given the investigative agency another 90 days of custody of the men accused in the Ramalingam murder case. This after the National Investigation Agency argued that the planned attack on the PMK member in February was an act of 'terrorism' aimed at causing communal disharmony. The NIA also confirmed that the accused belonged to the Popular Front of India, an Islamist group banned in certain states for engaging in fundamentalist and anti-national activities. 

The court's judgement, which TNM has a copy of, comes after arguments made both by NIA Special Public prosecutor CSS Pillai and the lawyers representing the 10 accused. Six others accused in the case are currently absconding. With their initial custody of 90 days ending, the NIA sought an extension after narrating the circumstances of the crimes, the modus operandi and the need to continue questioning the accused. The 10 men currently in custody include Mohamed Asarudeen (A1), Mohamed Riyas (A2), Nijam Ali (A3), Sarbudeen (A4), Mohamed Rishwan (A5), Mohamed Thowfik (A6), Mohamed Parvish(A7), Thowqeeth Batch(A8), Mohamed Ibrahim(A9) and Mohamed Hassan Kuthous(A10). 

'Chilli powder thrown on deceased'

In its petition to the court, the NIA has outlined how and why the attack in Thanjavur district took place. The agency confirms that the altercation between Ramalingam, accused A1-A5 and the Islamic preacher of Arivagam occurred over the promotion of conversions to Islam. As an argument ensued, Ramalingam removed the skullcap worn by one of the preachers and put vibhuti (ash) on the his forehead . The situation was, however, peacefully resolved with the help of local villagers. 

But that evening, according to the report, A-8, A-13, A-14 and A-15 were waiting on 'Muslim street' in Thirubhuvanam for Ramalingam to pass through.  As the street was narrow Ramalingam could not avoid interception and the accused had allegedly parked their vehicle on the road as well. 

"At that time, A8, A13 to A15 questioned the deceased about the morning incident and they forcibly tried to pull him from his vehicle and told the deceased that, 'for the morning incident we will not leave you and we are going to kill you'. The deceased tried to move his vehicle back. Immediately, A-8 threw chilli powder on the face of the deceased. The deceased screamed. At that time, A 13 Abdul Majith and A 15 Shahul Hameed caught hold of the right hand of the deceased and pulled him out of the vehicle," reads the report. 

And when Ramalingam tried to escape, he was attacked by A-8. An 'aruval' or sickle was used to assault him but because he moved the blow fell on his right elbow. 

"The son of the deceased raised alarm and tried to safeguard his father from the attack," according to the report. But it was the entry of another vehicle into the street that caused the accused to escape. When the deceased's son Shyam Sundar rushed him to the hospital, the injuries were termed fatal and Ramalingam died soon after.

CCTV footage collected from that day allegedly revealed that A-6 and A-7 were conducting surveillance of the deceased from the afternoon of the same day and they were identified by deceased's son and other witnesses. 

A case was registered under Sections 341 (Punishment for wrongful restraint), 294(b) (punishment for singing, reciting or uttering obscene song, ballad or words, in or near any public place), 307 (Attempt to murder), 120B (Punishment of criminal conspiracy), 143 (Punishment for a member of an unlawful assembly), 147 (Punishment for rioting), 148 ( Rioting, armed with deadly weapon) and Section 302 (Punishment for murder ) read with Section 149 of the Indian Penal Code (Every member of unlawful assembly guilty of offence committed in prosecution of common object) and sections 15 read with 16, 18, 18B, 19 and 20 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967.

Murder a terrorist act?

The primary argument made by the NIA for continued custody was that investigations revealed not only murderous intentions but also efforts to cause communal disharmony in the society. The accused were allegedly attempting to create fear in the minds of a particular section of people in addition to attacking the sovereignty of the country. The NIA has also called the murder a 'terrorist act'. 

"The investigation revealed that the accused persons had hatched criminal conspiracy, recruited persons, collected weapon, collected vehicles etc, for committing the terrorist act and acted themselves as a terrorist gang. Moreover, the statements of witnesses as well as the confession of the accused persons reveal that they were in promotion of 'Jihadi' activities which has to be probed further during the course of investigation," reads the report. 

The NIA has requested time to also analyse the digital data collected during searches conducted in connection to the case, CCTV footage and call data records. It argued that custodial interrogation was also necessary to nab other accused involved and further probe the alleged terror link. 

"The investigation has to be further probed into the aspect of the way of assault and the injury sustained by the deceased. The way of the injury is similar to the attack of 'Jihad' activities as found in similar cases which were reported in several states," reads the report.  The accused despite having no proper employment allegedly had surplus funds and the possibility of a terror fund was alleged by the NIA. The accused's travel documents are also being scrutinised to rule out any training by terrorist organisation. Therefore, the investigation needs to be probed further whether these assailants have any involvement with ISIS or any other terror organisation. Therefore, the investigation needed to be continued beyond 90 days," the NIA argues. 

Accused deny allegations

Denying these allegations, the counsel for the accused pointed out that PFI was not a banned organisation and that the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act cannot therefore be invoked. It was argued that the accused are in no way connected to the murder and that this case is being given communal colours with an 'ulterior motive'.

The counsel argued that 'there is no compelling necessity for the further detention of the respondents in custody'. 

The court, however, was not convinced by the accused's arguments and pointed out that the truth had to be brought into light. 

"It has to be borne in mind that interest of justice has to be safeguarded not only in respect of the persons accused but also in respect of the State in order to bring the truth into light. Denying further time to the present investigating agency under the circumstances stated above is nothing but denying the opportunity provided under law," said the court. "The Court feels that the period of 90 days, as mandated by the Code of Criminal procedure, has to be extended further by another 90 days," it ruled.



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