A court in Kerala Tuesday awarded double life imprisonment to all 10 convicts in the case of honour killing of a Dalit Christian youth, Kevin P Joseph (24), by his wife’s upper-caste Christian family in Kottayam last year. Kevin’s ‘honour killing’, a first of its kind in Kerala, had triggered widespread 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.
After the verdict, Kevin’s father Joseph told reporters: “The court has awarded double life imprisonment. I can’t say I’m happy but it’s a deserving punishment for the accused. I think the court has desisted from the death sentence taking into account the accused’s ages. Chacko (Neenu’s father) is still outside. He should have been imprisoned as well. I will appeal to the higher courts against Chacko. He is the main man in the case. I want to thank the police officers who worked relentlessly to investigate the case especially SP Harishankar. More than me, they worked day and night to go after the accused. I haven’t spoken to Neenu. She is studying. Let her study. She has also suffered a lot especially testifying against her father and brother.”
On August 22, observing that the murder was a case of honour killing, 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.
On May 24, 2018, Kevin Joseph 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.
During the trial, Kevin’s wife Neenu Chacko, 21, had told the court that her father Chacko, an upper-caste Christian hailing from Kollam, had threatened her and Kevin over their relationship. Since the murder, Neenu, a student, has been staying with Kevin’s family.