What happened at the Thrissur Additional Sessions court on October 26 can erode our belief in the impartiality of the judicial process in one cynical sweep. But developments on the following day make it look like a circus.
Beedi tycoon Nisham faces murder charges for ramming his Hummer into a poor security guard who was stationed at his posh apartment complex in Thrissur. Nisham allegedly ran Chandrabose over after there was a delay in opening the gate in the wee hours of January 29.
Were we possibly wrong?
On Monday, the Sessions Court declared that a key witness in the case was hostile after he changed his statement. The witness Anoop was a guard at the Shoba City apartment complex where Nisham owned a house and was present when the incident occurred.
He had earlier given a legally binding statement describing the events of the fateful night. He submitted that Nisham, in a fit of drunken rage, had brutally murdered Chandrabose by ramming into him with his Hummer. But on Monday, Anoop backtracked and told the court that he had not seen anything.
On Tuesday, Anoop made a complete u-turn. He told the court that he had been threatened and that he had lied on Monday to protect his wife and four children. He told the court that his conscience would not allow him to lie, and had therefore decided to narrate how Nisham killed Chandrabose.
Only time will tell if Anoop will stick to his latest statement or not, but this frequent change of stance will surely have an impact on the case and his credibility as a witness.
The News Minute has the statement he gave a magistrate, recorded under CrPC 164 on February 21, 2015.
The description of events that night in Anoopâ€™s statement which was given without duress, is chilling and warrants recall. Here is the operative part of his statement translated from Malayalam:
"I have been working at Shobha City for the past three months, my duty is to man the main gate. Four people do the patrolling during the day and another four people including me in the night.
Chandrabose was a staff hired by Shoba group and he was in charge of noting all gate entries.
Due to one of the supervisors being on leave, I was forced to do morning and night shift that day.
Sitting inside the cabin, around 3:15 am, I saw a vehicle approaching the gate. Another supervisor, Girish Kumar opened the first barricade and allowed the Hummer, which was a familiar vehicle to come inside. The Hummer (car registration number: P4039999) came in full speed.
There is a curve after the barricade, and as the vehicle was out of control, the left tyre banged into the compound wall. The vehicle stopped and Nisham came out of the driver's seat and I too walked out of my cabin.
A very angry Nisham then shook the barricade and using expletives said that one day he would remove it. Hearing the noise, Chandrabose came to the gate and asked Nisham what was wrong. Nisham started yelling at Chandrabose and asked who the hell he was to question him.
Then he started hitting Chandrabose. After receiving 4-5 blows, Chandrabose rushed to the cabin and locked himself inside.
Nisham started kicking the cabin door while I and another guard tried to stop him. He was very drunk and tried to assault the other guard also.
Nisham then took a baton which was lying outside the cabin and broke the glass of the cabin. He went inside through the cabin window and started beating up Chandrabose.
After beating Chandrabose mercilessly, he came out through the cabin window and threatened us, he said that he had a gun (but did not show the gun).
As soon as we heard this, we ran in different directions. I then saw him making a call on his mobile, he then turned to Chandrabose and gesticulated that he will shoot him. I came rushing back to the cabin and yelled to Chandrabose. 'Boseetta, run out through the window.' Chandrabose then jumped out.
I also frantically called (using mobile phone) our assignment manager and a Shobha staff to come to the spot. Chandrabose and I started running, we were near the side of the fountain. Meanwhile, Nisham got into the car and followed us, Chandrabose was just 20-30 meters behind me.
As Chandrabose turned to look back, the car came in full speed, rammed into him, crashing into the wall of the fountain. The car in full speed climbed the platform on which the fountain was standing and rammed into Chandrabose. The front two tyres crashed into the fountain wall throwing Chandrabose to the side.
In spite of one of the tyres bursting, Nisham reversed the car, stopped the engine, got down and kicked Chandrabose, beat him with his hands and said 'Get in the vehicle'.
I saw all this very clearly from a 30 meter distance. The place was well lit for me to see everything that was happening.
Nisham dragged Chandrabose into the backseat of the vehicle, just when he was exiting the apartment, Nisham's wife was waiting for him in at the outer gate in a car (she had come from their villa inside). She parked her car and gets inside Nisham's vehicle. They then took Chandrabose to the parking lot. I realised that the phone call he made must have been to his wife.â€ť
Chandraboseâ€™s family alleges that Anoop was paid to go back on his statement, and that he now owns a plot in Palakkad and has even bought a car.
The Public Prosecutor in the case remains confident. Speaking to TNM, he says, "The witness changing statement, but this is not a setback to the case. He has recorded his statement before a magistrate and we will ask the judge to consider it. There are many other witnesses, and we are confident that some of them won't change their version."
But it might not be that simple. The Thrissur police never took Chandraboseâ€™s statement, which would have been crucial to the case. At this juncture, the case against Nisham has been weakened and it could go either way.
Nisham has at least nine cases against him in Kerala and Karnataka for various offences. These include murder, attempt to murder and intimidation for which he has been booked under the Kerala Anti-Social Activities Prevention Act.
As it dawns upon us now that there is a very real possibility that a cold-blooded, drunken maniac and murder-accused could get away, it is difficult not to react with a sense of despondency, anger and frustration. How can we sit by and watch another murder-accused, with a history of violence, get away?
This is not just about one case, this is a systemic issue. The Indian judicial system is rotten from the inside, and witnesses are prone to being either influenced or intimidated. Rich and influential businessmen like Nisham can easily manipulate the system according to their will. Can we allow money to silence the truth and result in a travesty of justice?
In the coming days, we must keep a close watch on the Nisham case to see how it goes.
(Some pages from the statement)