The Additional Sessions Court, Alappuzha Division has imposed a death sentence upon fourteen PFI (Popular Front of India) workers who were convicted for the murder of Advocate Ranjith Sreenivasan in Allapuzha, Kerala in December 2021. The tenth convict was not heard on sentencing since he was hospitalized and hence his case has been split.

The Court had on January 20 this year, convicted all fifteen PFI workers and the hearing on sentencing was to take place on January 30. Advocate Ranjith Sreenivasan, an active member of the Alleppey Bar Association and the State Secretary of the OBC Morcha of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Kerala State was hacked to death inside his house on December 19, 2021, in front of his mother, wife, and daughter.

The chargesheet in the case was filed against the fifteen PFI workers, alleging commission of offences punishable under Sections 143, 147, 148, 109, 120B, 449, 447, 427, 506, 323, 326, 341, 323, 302, 34, 201, read with Section 149 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Section 27 of the Arms Act, 1959.

Additional Sessions Judge V.G. Sreedevi pronounced the judgment of sentence yesterday.

The Judge held, “So, an overall evaluation of the facts and circumstances of this case, which is a case with direct evidence with three occurrence witnesses and the recoveries effected proved that the weapons as well as vehicles used contain blood and DNA profiling proved that those blood stains are of the victim Advocate. So, there is absolute justification for imposing capital punishment for all the accused persons in this case.”

“The accused believed that they are morally justified. The crime was committed with very good planning and the preparations might have started months ago. So, I am of the view that the defenceless victim who had never provoked the accused and the commission of offence was a pre-meditated one. The only mitigating circumstance, the age of the accused would not be balancing with the aggravating circumstances already pointed out. It is true that there is no records to show that the accused persons were convicted earlier”, observed the Court.

The Court also said that the most important aspect is that the heinous crime was committed in the comfort zone i.e., in the house of the victim, in the presence of his mother, wife and minor child and he was denuded, are all showing the brutality of the crime.

“The report of the State shows that the accused persons are hardcore criminals and there is no chance for reformation because they are very deeply interested in the affairs of the said organization which is widespread in the country and in case such activities are allowed to continue in society, it would definitely hamper the peace in the society. Moreover, it should be deterred, for which, a deterrent punishment is required”, it noted.

It observed that the accused persons have never shown any repentance for what they have done in the case and hence, the chance of reformation and rehabilitation cannot be considered as a mitigating circumstance in the case.

Background -

The prosecution case was that on December 19, 2021, at about 6.33 a.m., a group of 12 persons reached the house of a retired Superintendent from the Health Department and eight of them pushed open the front door of the house and one among them smashed the glass teapoy placed in the hall room. Hearing the sound, Advocate Ranjith Sreenivasan who was sleeping in the bedroom adjoining the kitchen and his wife suddenly came into the dining room which was the next room of the hall. Their younger daughter who was sleeping in the next bedroom and Advocate who was at the staircase outside the house also, seeing this came into the hall.

Then, without giving a chance for the Advocate to stand in the room, the first accused suddenly inflicted a heavy bang upon the head of the Advocate and the other two accused persons with the swords, inflicted severe injuries on his face and neck which caused splashing of blood which reached up to the roof of the room. Thereafter, the other accused persons, taking their turn, repeatedly inflicted severe injuries over the body of the Advocate which were on the face, neck, chest, abdomen lower limbs and upper limbs. His tooth was even thrown away and one side of the brain was smashed. These things happened within a small span of nearly three minutes, according to the witnesses, i.e., the mother, wife, and daughter respectively.

Earlier, the judgment of conviction was pronounced by the Judge and out of the 15 who faced trial, accused numbers 1 to 8 who entered the house of Advocate Ranjith Sreenivasan to commit the murder, were convicted under Section 302 of IPC. Accused numbers 9 to 12 who were standing guard outside his house, were convicted under Section 302 read with Section 149 of IPC. Accused numbers 13 to 15, were convicted for being involved in the conspiracy towards the murder under Section 302 coupled with Section 120B of IPC. And, accused numbers 1 to 12 were also convicted under the Arms Act.

The names of the convicts are Naisam, Ajmal, Anoop, Muhammed Aslam, Abdul Kalam @ Salam, Abdul Kalam, Safarudheen, Manshad, Jaseeb Raja, Navas, Sameer, Naseer, Sakeer Hussain, Shaji @ Poovathil Shaji, and Shernas Asharaf.

Speaking to Verdictum, Advocate Prathap G Padickal, the Special Public Prosecutor in the case had said that 56 antemortem injuries were inflicted on the body of Advocate Ranjith Sreenivasan. 156 witnesses were examined by the prosecution and around 1000 documents and more than 100 material objects were marked during the trial. Questioning under Section 313 CrPC runs to 6000 pages.

The trial of the case was transferred by the Kerala High Court from Alappuzha Court to Mavelikkara Court after the accused contended that the deceased was an Advocate practicing in that Court and the Bar in that Court had refused to represent the accused. The accused challenged the said order before the Supreme Court seeking transfer of trial to Ernakulam Court instead.

The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal of the accused seeking transfer of trial to Ernakulam in November last year.

The gruesome killing of Advocate Ranjith Sreenivas had invoked strong reactions among the legal fraternity across the country. The Bar Council of India had resolved to write to the Government of India through the Home Ministry demanding that the matter be investigated by a Central Agency like NIA or CBI.

The Jammu & Kashmir High Court Bar Association and the State Bar Council of Madhya Pradesh had also demanded strong action against those behind the killing of the Advocate. The Bar Council of Kerala had passed a resolution expressing anguish over the killing of the Advocate and demanded action against Ranjith's killers. Advocates of the Alleppey Bar Association had abstained from Court proceedings in protest against the killing, while demanding the constitution of a Special Investigative Team to probe into the killing.

The Kerala High Court had earlier dismissed bail applications of different accused in the case.

Cause Title- State of Kerala v. Naisam & Ors.

Click here to read/download the Judgment