The Hindu , Dec 16, 2006
Modifies death sentence of main accused to life term
# Says "it was expected that the teachers would speak out the truth but they did not"
# Says four of the accused entitled to benefit of doubt
New Delhi: Giving the benefit of doubt, the Supreme Court on Friday acquitted four CPI(M) workers sentenced to death in the brutal murder of a teacher, associated with the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM), in the classroom with children remaining as mute spectators. The court modified the death sentence imposed on the main assailant into one of life imprisonment.
In the case, K.P. Jayakrishnan, teacher in the Mokeri East U.P. School, Paramel, Kannur district, on December 1, 1999, was murdered due to political enmity between the CPI(M) party and BJYM. The trial court sentenced to death five of the accused, Pradeepan and four others accepting the testimony of child witnesses and this order was confirmed by the High Court. The present appeal by Pradeepan and others was directed against the High Court judgement.
Disposing of the appeal, a Bench comprising Justice S.B. Sinha and Justice Markandey Katju noted that in this case the investigation was slow because of political pressure. In the First Information Report nobody was named. Test identification parade was conducted after a long delay.
The bench said the investigation, for whatever reason, had not been conducted properly. The slipshod manner in which the investigation was carried out was amply borne out from the records.
The Bench said, "despite the fact that a teacher in the classroom before the students of tender age had brutally been murdered, the police who reached the place of occurrence soon thereafter did not appear to have shown a very keen interest in the matter. This is a case where the children have shown a rare and strong courage, which their teachers have failed to show. It was expected that the teachers would speak out the truth but they did not."
The Bench noted that though the evidence of child witnesses could be accepted, four of the accused in this case were entitled to the benefit of doubt as there had been an undue delay in conducting the identification parade and recording the statements of prosecution witnesses.
"We therefore, are of the opinion that it is a fit case where benefit of doubt should be given to the said appellants," the bench said and acquitted four of the accused and directed that they be set at liberty forthwith.
However, regarding the main accused Pradeepan, the Bench said that there was enough evidence to prove that he had attacked the deceased with deadly weapons and that he succumbed to the injuries.
The Bench converted the death penalty into one of life imprisonment.