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KOCHI | Tuesday, January 4, 2011 | Email | Print | | Back  

Prof attack: Double setback for Kerala Police
June 16, 2011   1:54:05 PM

VR Jayaraj | Kochi

The Kerala Police suffered two setbacks simultaneously on Monday in the case pertaining to the Taliban-model Islamist attack on Prof TJ Joseph when a court in Kochi granted bail to two of the prime accused and the Supreme Court upheld a High Court order that granted bail to another key accused.

Jaffer of Eramallur and Ashraf of Kaladi, first and second accused respectively in the case, were granted bail by the Ernakulam District and Sessions Court in Kochi on Monday on the ground that the police had failed to submit the chargesheet within 180 days since their arrest.

At the same time, the Supreme Court upheld a September 17 order of the Kerala High Court granting bail to dentist Reneef, who was the ninth accused in the case. An apex court bench headed by Justice Markandey Katju upheld the High Court’s order dismissing the appeal of the Kerala Government and observing that Reneef had no direct involvement in the case.

Legal experts criticized the police for not foreseeing the possibility of the prime accused getting bail in the case if the authorities failed to submit the chargesheet within 180 days of their arrest. Though the Prosecution tried to quote rules regarding cases of extremist nature to block the bail, the court granted bail as the accused had already spent 180 days in judicial custody.

In normal cases, bail could be granted to the accused after they spend 90 days in custody. But in this particular case, this was extended up to 180 days because of its extremist nature. “It is mysterious that the police did not care to complete the formalities and submit the chargesheet against the accused in the specified time limit,” pointed out a lawyer of the Kerala High Court.

Legal experts also said that the granting of the bail to the first two accused could affect the strength of the case. The court granted bail to the duo amidst the police’s plans to submit the chargesheet with evidences against 29 accused arrested so far in the case. The plan was to file supplementary chargesheets as and when the other 25 accused were arrested.

Islamists belonging to the Popular Front of India (PFI) had on July 4 last cut off the right hand of TJ Joseph, Malayalam professor at Catholic Church-run Newman College, Thodupuzha, for preparing a question paper which allegedly blasphemed Prophet Muhammad. The management later suspended Joseph from service for the same reason.

Jaffer and Ashraf were arrested immediately after the attack on the professor. Jaffer was caught with the Maruti Omni vehicle, in which the seven assailants had reached the crime spot in Muvattupuzha to arrack the professor, who was returning home from a local church with his mother and sister.

Jaffer’s mission was to hand over the vehicle to Ashraf for dismantling it as part of the plan to destroy evidence. Both Jaffer and Ashraf were senior office-bearers of SDPI, the political wing of the Popular Front.

Upholding the order of the High Court granting bail to Reneef, who had treated one of the injured assailants of the professor after the attack, the Supreme Court observed that he had no direct involvement in the incident. He could not have become a culprit merely by treating an injured person, the court said.

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