More than a year after Shuhaib, a Youth Congress worker, was hacked to death in Kannur district, a division bench of the Kerala High Court headed by Chief Justice Hrishikesh Roy on Friday quashed a single judge’s order to hand over the investigation to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
The judgement by the HC was based on a petition filed by the Kerala government against the March 2018 order by Justice B Kemal Pasha, to hand over the investigation of Shuhaib’s murder to the CBI after his parents pointed out lapses in the police investigation.
Twenty-seven-year-old Shuhaib was hacked to death in Kannur’s Mattannur on the night of February 12, 2018, allegedly by workers of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), one of the major constituents of the ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF) government in Kerala. Following statements by Shuhaib’s friend, who also sustained injuries during the attack, the Mattannur police had registered an FIR under sections 341 (Punishment for wrongful restraint), 324 (Voluntarily causing hurt by dangerous weapons or means), 307 (attempt to murder) and 302 (punishment for murder) of the Indian Penal Code. A few CPI(M) workers were also arrested in connection with the murder.
However, Shuhaib’s parents had feared that since the alleged suspects owed allegiance to the ruling party, the investigation into the crime would not be fair. The non-recovery of the weapons used in the crime from the accused also pointed to a shoddy investigation by the police, they claimed.
Another reason that irked Shuhaib’s parents was that the provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act were not invoked while registering the FIR. These reasons taken together led the parents to approach the Kerala HC to transfer the investigation to the CBI.
However, the HC on Friday observed, “There was hardly any material available before the writ court that could have led it to assume that the investigation was inherently unfair or biased in any manner.” It was also pointed out that the CPI(M) leaders against whom Shuhaib’s parents had levelled allegations had not been made a party in the petitions and their versions had not been heard.
The Court also observed that the conclusion by the single judge regarding the unfairness of the investigation “was based solely on the finding that the investigation authority had not recovered the weapons.” The bench went on to add that the state police had already arrested six persons and recovered the weapons within three weeks of the incident, and that if the single judge had wanted further details, he could have asked for the case diary but did not choose to do so.
Reacting to the Kerala HC order, the state opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala said that the party would file an appeal in the apex court after carefully examining the judgement. “I spoke to Shuhaib’s father. They are also planning to appeal in the SC. Congress will provide them with all the necessary support,” he said.