A Kerala court on Thursday found 10 people guilty in a case of honour killing, in which a Dalit Christian youth was abducted and murdered by his fiancee’s upper caste Christian family in Kottayam last year.
Of the 14 people arraigned as accused, four were acquitted by the court. The other 10 have been charged under IPC Section 302 (murder) and Section 364A (kidnapping for ransom), among other charges.
Observing that the murder of Kevin P Joseph, 24, was an incident of honour killing, Kottayam Principal Sessions judge C Jayachandran put on hold serving the quantum of punishment to the 10 found guilty.
Since the murder, Kevin’s fiancee Neenu Chacko, 21, has been staying with Kevin’s family. The court is expected to deliver the punishment on Saturday.
Special Prosecutor C S Ajayan said the court’s observation of honour killing can reflect upon the quantum of sentence — the Supreme Court had earlier stated that honour killing is a circumstance to consider it as a “rarest of rare” case.
During the trial, Neenu, a student, had told the court that her father Chacko, an upper caste Christian hailing from Kollam, had threatened her and Kevin over their relationship.
Chacko, who has married a Muslim woman, Rehna, had told his daughter that marrying a “low caste youth would bring dishonour” to his family. Neenu’s cousin Niyas also had warned that the family would not allow her to live with Kevin.
According to the prosecution, Neenu left her house in Kollam on May 24, intending to marry Kevin and disregarding the objections from her family.
Two days later, they jointly moved an application at a register office in Kottayam, for registering their marriage.
When Neenu’s family moved a missing person’s complaint with the local police, Neenu and Kevin turned up at the police station, where Chacko was present, the prosecution said.
Neenu told the court that the station house officer wanted her go with her family, and had even tried to manhandle Kevin.
Neenu then moved to a hostel in Kottayam and Kevin to the house of a relative, Aneesh.
As per the prosecution, a gang, led by Neenu’s brother Shynu Chacko, abducted Kevin and Aneesh on May 27, 2018, after vandalising Aneesh’s house. Aneesh was later abandoned by the gang after he was tortured.
However, the gang took Kevin to a village in Kollam and forced him to run into a stream.
His body was found in the stream the next day, apparently indicating a case of drowning. But, the prosecution said, forensic examination had revealed that Kevin was murdered by keeping him forcibly under water.
According to the prosecution, Kevin’s father, Joseph, approached the police about his son’s abduction, but police initially did not take a serious note of the issue. Neenu too had pleaded for help from the police, which was turned down by officials on the grounds that they were on VIP escort duty and could not spare personnel.