The Kerala High Court has today stayed the proceedings against Kerala Transport Minister Antony Raju for tampering with evidence in an NDPS case to help a foreign national accused.

The Bench of Justice Ziyad Rahman stayed the proceedings for a period of one month, accepting the argument that the prosecution could have been initiated only by the court concerned or an officer of that court and not by the police.

Antony Raju on Tuesday moved the Kerala High Court saying the proceedings against him in a lower court were a clear abuse of the process of the Court.

Recently, the High Court had sought a report from the lower court in Thiruvananthapuram over an alleged delay in trial of a criminal case in which Raju is also an accused.

The case against the minister, a leader of Janadhipathya Kerala Congress party which is an ally of the ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF), relates to an alleged tampering of evidence in a drug seizure case reported in 1990. Raju was the lawyer of the accused in the drug case.

"...the continuation of the proceedings before the Court below is a clear abuse of the process of the Court as no court shall take cognizance of the offense under Section 193 of the IPC except upon a complaint filed by the Court, however, the court below took cognizance of the offense based upon the final report filed by the police," the plea said.

The petition said the prosecution has been initiated by the Police and not by the Court, which is per se illegal and the court has no jurisdiction to take cognizance of the offense if the complaint is not by the court, as the offence is alleged is section 193 of the IPC.

Earlier, the state government had justified the delay and said this was not the only case that has been pending before the courts. The government had also claimed before the court that there was a conspiracy behind the plea.

The trial was yet to start in the case in which the charge sheet was filed in 2013.

The accused in the drug case, an Australian citizen, was arrested from the international airport in Thiruvananthapuram on charges of carrying hashish and the prosecution had produced an inner wear as part of the evidence against him saying the contraband was smuggled in that.

The Australian citizen was sentenced to ten years of rigorous imprisonment.

However, he was acquitted by the High Court in 1993, after his counsel proved that the innerwear was too small for him.

A police probe later showed that Raju, who had appeared for the accused, had received the underwear from the court' and returned it four months later before the accused moved the High Court.

Following this, a district court had ordered a case to be registered against Raju and court clerk K Jose in connection with the tampering of the material evidence.

Court sources said the case was deferred 22 times and Raju had never appeared before the court in any of the hearings. Raju, who contested in the election in 2021, stated in his affidavit this pending case.

With PTI inputs