A principal sessions court in Kottayam Thursday ruled that the death of Kevin P Joseph (24), a Dalit Christian man, was an ‘honour killing’ and convicted 10 accused persons including Kevin’s wife’s brother in the case. The quantum of punishment will be announced Saturday.
On May 24, 2018, Kevin had married Neenu Chacko (20) at a civil ceremony in Kottayam much to the dismay of Neenu’s family who opposed it on account of his caste. Two days later, Kevin and his friend Aneesh were abducted from his house by a gang allegedly at the behest of Neenu’s family, particularly her brother Syanu Chacko. While Aneesh was released by the gang, Kevin’s body was fished out of a canal near Thenmala in Kollam district. The autopsy reports confirmed that Kevin was forcibly made to drown in the canal. It was also revealed that the local police refused to file a complaint late Sunday night despite repeated pleas by Neenu and Kevin’s family.
On Thursday, Judge C Jayachandran convicted 10 persons including Syanu Chacko under charges of murder (Section 302), kidnapping (Section 364 A), criminal conspiracy (Section 120 B), house-trespass (Section 449), voluntarily causing hurt (Section 321), wrongful confinement (Section 342) and criminal intimidation (Section 506-2). At the same time, the court acquitted Neenu’s father Chacko and three others in the case for want of evidence.
Kottayam SP Harishankar told reporters that the verdict was ‘satisfying’ and that it was challenging for the police to prove the murder with just circumstantial evidence. “When there are multiple accused, proving the charge of conspiracy is also a difficult task,” he said.
Throughout the trial, that lasted just over three months, the prosecution had argued that the death of Kevin must be seen as an ‘honour killing’ and demanded for maximum punishment to the accused, including Neenu’s brother and father. A total of 113 witnesses, 55 pieces of evidence and 238 documents were perused by the court. Neenu’s statement pointing to the caste prejudice that her family allegedly held against Kevin helped the prosecution’s case.
Kevin’s ‘honour killing’, a first of its kind in Kerala, had led to sweeping protests across the state last year with a large section of Dalit organisations as well as the Opposition UDF up in arms against the inaction of the police and the involvement of a few DYFI leaders in the case. The funeral of Kevin was conducted at his home on a massive scale with thousands of people flowing in to pay their respects.