The government is under the scanner over varied issues, political and otherwise.

 

New Delhi: In a fresh blow to the Kerala Police and its political masters, the ruling Left Front, the Kerala High Court early this week ordered a CBI probe into the murder of two Youth Congress workers near Periya in north Kasaragod on 17 February this year. Ordering the state Crime Branch to immediately hand over the investigation to the Central agency, the court nullified the charge sheet filed by the Kerala Police as it found “the investigation was not trustworthy”.

Justice B. Sudheendra Kumar’s order came on a petition by the parents of the two slain youth, Sarath Lal and Kripesh, both in their twenties, who were hacked to death, allegedly by CPM workers. They were returning home after attending a Congress function, weeks before the state voted in the general elections. “It is a political murder. All the accused are leaders of a political party. The twin murder is a planned one,” the court observed as it transferred the investigation to the CBI. Earlier the Crime Branch had told the court that senior CPM leaders did not have any role in the murder. The court said such an argument was unacceptable.

All this while, the Left Front government had rejected pleas to hand over the case to CBI, saying the investigation conducted by the Crime Branch was “moving in the right direction”, and hence there was no need to bring in the Central investigation agency. However, the court observed that the investigation in the case was a “sham”. A charge-sheet filed on the strength of the said investigation “cannot lead to a fair trial. All the accused persons are leaders of the CPM, which is the ruling party in Kerala. Therefore, the credibility and confidence of the petitioner in the investigation had been lost, particularly when the deceased persons were leaders of the Congress party.”

Incidentally, the High Court had in August ruled out a CBI probe into another murder of another Youth Congress worker, Shuhaib, allegedly by CPM goons in Kannur on 12 February 2018. In fact, many Congress leaders were in Kannur in connection with the anniversary of Shuhaib’s murder, when the killings happened in Kasaragod. The twin murders had put the CPM on the defensive, coming as it did on the eve of the general elections. Even before the police filed an FIR, the CPM Kasaragod district committee had expelled the former branch secretary of the party who had apparently spearheaded the gang that hacked the two to death. The expulsion came just after the Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and the state party leadership said it had no role in the murders and the party never “promoted violence”. The Chief Minister had even famously said that no sensible CPM worker would undertake such murders at the time of elections. Many considered this as an admission that had elections been not there, there was no harm in CPM workers killing one or two political rivals. Anyway, at that time since elections were knocking at the door, CPM went all out to prove how the party had changed and no more encouraged killings by the cadre. Curiously enough, with the two murders, the tally of political murders in the state after the Left Front came to power in 2016 had touched 20. And in all these murders, CPM workers are involved, either as victims or as accused. While the victims are turned into “martyrs”, the party and the government unabashedly go all out to defend the accused. The twin murder was no exception. Since it was the time of elections, the murders had an adverse impact on the CPM, with the party losing even in strongholds in the Malabar region. The Congress party, which gained politically from the murders, conveniently forgot about the two once the elections were over. But the parents of the two pursued their fight for justice, culminating in the High Court order this week.

Going by the past, the Left Front government is sure to move the apex court against the present ruling. Kerala is witnessing five byelections, scheduled for 21 October. One of the Assembly constituencies is Manjeswaram in Kasaragod, where the BJP is a strong contender. In the Lok Sabha elections, CPM had lost Kasaragod to the Congress. Since the court ruling is bound to revive political murders as one of the major election issues, CPM may prefer to lie low and perhaps move the Supreme Court once the elections are over. Moreover, the government is under the scanner over varied issues, political and otherwise, demolition of four high-rises built along the backwaters of Kochi in violation of environmental norms being the foremost among them. But if the government goes for appeal in the higher court against the single-bench ruling to save the face of the home ministry headed by the Chief Minister himself and his most discredited police chief Loknath Behera, then the Left Front will be doing a great injustice not only to the victims and their family, but also to the common people of Kerala. One can only hope that the Pinarayi Vijayan government has at least learnt from past experience and will cooperate in bringing the culprits to book, irrespective of their political allegiance. That is the best thing CPM can do if it is sincere about bringing an end to political killings in the state.

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