Our right to protest: KSU workers facing attempt-to-murder for hurling shoe at CM’s bus

A Kerala police FIR said the accused committed the crime with intent to cause an accident to the vehicle in which the CM and other ministers were travelling.
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan
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"This is a democratic country, and we have the right to protest," said Basil P, a state office bearer of the  Kerala Students Union (KSU), the student wing of Indian National Congress in the State, who was booked for culpable homicide after hurling shoes at the Nava Kerala bus on December 10. 

Along with Basil, police booked three other KSU workers, Devakumar T, Jibin Mathew and Jaiden Johnson for protesting against the Kerala Chief Minister.  The magistrate court in Perumbavoor while granting them bail on December 11 pulled up the police for slapping an attempt to murder charge on the activists. ‘How can you impose Section 308 against a person for throwing shoes at a bus. It did not fall inside the bus. How can they be booked for attempt to murder,” asked the court. The court also wanted to know why no case was registered against those who attacked the KSU workers.

The incident happened in Odakkali in Ernakulam when the Nava Kerala bus carrying the CM and his Cabinet colleagues was on the way to Kothamangalam in Ernakulam. According to Basil, the protest was not a planned one. "To be honest, it was not a planned protest. Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI) activists and police harassed our party workers by hitting them with plant pots and even with helmets, so we were forced to protest," Basil said.  

Adv Thomas Anakkallungal said this as a clear misuse of the law. "Can throwing a shoe kill someone? How does throwing a shoe cause one to lose control of a vehicle? This would not withstand legal scrutiny, and the offence is not valid," he said.

People who beat them up claimed to be commandos of the CM but they did not have any ID cards or name boards, said Basil. They were later handed over to the police.

“None of the prosecution records produced before the court are sufficient to establish “that the accused attempted to commit culpable homicide against ministers and officers of the protective force. As the prosecution could not bring a prima facie case of offence under 308 IPC, the allegation of criminal conspiracy will not hold,” said Thomas Anakkallungal.

The KSU workers hurled three shoes and one hit the bus. The FIR by Kuruppampady police said the accused committed the crime with intent to cause an accident to the vehicle in which the CM and other ministers were travelling. They also slapped IPC sections  283 (obstruction or injury to any person in any public way) and 353 (Assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty) besides 308.

"Police arrested us around 3 pm and took us for medical check-up only past midnight around 12.30 am. The police presented us in front of the magistrate the next evening,” he said.

According to Basil, three others who were booked along with him are under medical treatment and are planning to file a complaint against the CM’s commandos to the Human Rights Commission and the police,” he said. 

The KSU leadership said they have no plan to continue hurling shoes as part of their protest. “We are aware that hurling shoes is not a democratic way of protest. But what happened was an emotional outburst because Congress workers were being brutally beaten up by the CPI(M) and DYFI activists. We will continue to protest vehemently” said KSU state president Aloysius Xavier while speaking to the media. 

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