A sessions court in Mangaluru has acquitted a father-son duo, belonging to a tribal community, charged with harbouring Naxalites and conspiring to wage a war against the government. Additional District and Sessions Judge BB Jakati concluded that articles recovered from the accused such as a book by Bhagat Singh and newspaper clippings were not incriminating and the prosecution had no evidence to establish the allegation that the accused were harbouring Naxalites.
Background of the case
The prosecution alleged that the accused nos. 1 to 5 were members of banned organisation Communist Party of India (Marxist Leninist) – People’s War and they entered into a conspiracy with accused nos. 6 and 7 to wage a war against the sovereignty of India. It was stated that accused nos. 6 and 7 harboured Accused no. 1 to 5 in a tribal area, while they were instigating tribals of Kuthloor village to participate in Naxal activities.
An anti-Naxal force formed by the state government searched the house of accused nos. 7 and 6 who are father-son by relation and found some articles, following which the duo was taken into custody at Venur Police station. However, accused nos. 1 to 5 remained absconding and the case against them was split, thus this case only pertained to accused nos. 6 and 7, namely Vittala Malekudiya and Lingappa Malekudiya.
During the trial, about 10 witnesses who are fellow villagers of Vittala and Lingappa did not support the prosecution’s case, however, the prosecution argued that evidence of the rest of the witnesses who are all police witnesses is sufficient to prove the conspiracy charge.
The counsel for Vittala and Lingappa submitted that Vittala was pursuing a degree in journalism and the articles seized from the home include some newspapers and also a book by Bhagat Singh. Further, there were some letters written by Vittala during a by-election that if demands of tribals are not met, the villagers will boycott the elections. The counsel argued that on the basis of such articles, Vittala and his father have been implicated.
The court noted that to establish that the accused nos. 6 and 7 harboured the other accused, the prosecution has relied upon the articles seized from their house. Largely, it is observed in the order that the witnesses to the panchnama carried out by the police at some locations have not been supported by the witnesses to the panchnama. Mobile phones were seized but no CDR were presented as evidence neither has any incriminating evidence been recovered from the phones.
“There should be incriminating material data stored in the mobile to show the activities of the accused No.6 and 7. Further there should have been mobile calls in between accused No.1 to 7. No such data is produced by the prosecution or shown during the trial from the mobiles seized from the possession of accused No.6 and 7. Therefore, the mobiles produced in the case would not help the case of the prosecution in any manner,” the court said.
The court held that the letters written about boycotting elections if demands of tribals are not met cannot be linked to Naxal activities. Further out of 26 articles seized, except 6 articles, rest were found to be regular articles of daily life. Another police officer admitted that all 26 articles were day to day use articles. “So, the police themselves have admitted that, M.O.1 to 26 are not the articles used by the accused either for concealing the accused No.1 to 5 or for any illegal activities of banned organization,” the court pointed out.
Further, the court stated, “The book of Bhagath Singh has been seized, possessing book of Bhagath Singh is not barred under law.” The court pointed to newspaper clippings found in possession and stated that even if there is instigative writing in the newspaper, the accused are not answerable for having them in possession.
The non-police witnesses which included the villagers did not support the case of the prosecution. “In order to establish that, there was criminal conspiracy between accused No.1 to 5 and accused No.6 and 7 and even to prove that the accused No.6 and 7 were the members of banned organization or to prove that they were concealing the accused No.1 to 5, the oral evidence of witnesses who have seen or heard such fact is necessary,” the court said.
“If really the accused No.6 and 7 were involved in Naxalite activity, atleast one of the villager would have spoken such fact. None of the villagers spoken such fact, so, there is absolutely no evidence to prove that the accused No.6 and 7 were the members of Naxalite group and they were concealing the accused No.1 to 5 or assisting them in naxalite activities in Forest area of Kuthloor Village,” the court observed.
Taking all evidence into consideration, the court observed that the same was not sufficient to prove the guilt of the accused nos. 6 and 7 for offences of conspiracy, sedition and also under UAPA. The court thus acquitted the two accused for the offences and cancelled their bail bond.
The complete judgment may be read here: