"The manner in which events were portrayed before Court, smacks of a deliberate attempt to tutor witness and collect evidence, to define a scripted story", the Kerala High Court observed while acquitting 13 RSS workers convicted for the murder of a CPI(M) worker in the year 2008 in Thiruvananthapuram.

The Division Bench of Justice K. Vinod Chandran and Justice C. Jayachandran also observed that "The eye-witness testimonies are incredulous, the identification unbelievable, the recoveries unsubstantiated and the seizures leading to nothing. There is absolutely no evidence worth its salt, and the prosecution failed to prove any corroborative circumstance, but for the political rivalry existing between two groups".

The case arises out of the murder of an active CPI(M) worker, Vishnu in Thiruvananthapuram in 2008. There were news reports in the immediate aftermath that indicated that the murder was committed by masked members of a goonda gang.

However, RSS workers, Accused Nos.1 to 10 and 12 to 15 were alleged to have conspired to murder Vishnu, and in furtherance of such common intention, formed themselves into an unlawful assembly, committed rioting, armed with deadly weapons and country bombs and hacked Vishnu to death.

Accused Nos. 11 and 16 were accused of attempting to screen and harbour Accused Nos. 2 and 3. While Accused No. 3 died during the trial, Accused No. 14 absconded and Accused No.16 was acquitted. Eleven accused were sentenced to separate life imprisonment under both the offences of Section 302 read with Section 149 and 120B read with 302 of the IPC and for various periods for other offences.

Senior Advocates B. Raman Pillai and S. Vijaya Bhanu and Advocate Arjun Sreedhar appeared for the accused while S.U.Nazar, Special Government Pleader appeared for the prosecution.

It was argued on behalf of the accused that the investigation was tainted from the very commencement and that the entire prosecution against the accused was engineered to satisfy the ruling party diktats; whose member the deceased was.

The Court held that there is enough indication of the possibility of the attack having been made by masked men, which stands accentuated by the absence of a Case Diary, which is mandatory as per the Criminal Procedure Code.

The Court disbelieved the prime witnesses stating that they "spoke of the occurrence having been for 1 to 1½ minutes, within which time it is impossible to identify the assailants, their individual apparel, the minute details of the weapons and recount it after eight years".

The Court found that the Test Identification Parade (TIP) was incapable of providing corroboration. "..the ocular witnesses, paraded to speak on all the three limbs of the transaction which led to the death of the victim, we cannot but find them to be tutored and planted for the purpose of bringing home the guilt against the accused", the Court held.

The Court found that the best available witnesses, including a person who was accompanying the deceased while he was killed, were not examined.

The Court held that there was no convincing identification of the weapons and the deposition indicates each of the weapons having been confronted to the witness, without requiring the witness to select each, from the many available in Court. "We have noticed that the testimonies spoke of the distinguishing features of the weapons, which we found to be a clear embellishment in Court and impossible of perception, in the short time when the incident occurred", the Court held.

The Court found the alleged recovery of slippers from the crime scene to be suspicious and noted that the investigating officer never attempted to submit the same before Court in time. The Court also held that the prosecution miserably failed to establish that the prime accused were absent from their places of work on the day of the crime.

The Bench observed that "The sad saga of political rivalry and mindless killing, as we have noticed in many cases, tears asunder the social fabric of the State. The saga written in blood continues and the memorials held by the rival parties offer no solace to destitute parents, hapless widows and orphaned children, who often loose the only bread winner of the family".

The Bench also observed that the yearly remembrances of such killings only stoke the fires of rivalry and does not wipe the tears of the bereaved or awaken the conscience of those who matter. "Another life is lost and yet another prosecution fails, both lying on the wayside, grim reminders to the society of the futility of it all", the Court observed while allowing the appeals and acquitting all the accused.

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