Shanu Chacko and nine others who kidnapped and murdered young Kevin Joseph in May 2018 have been sentenced to double life imprisonment by Principal Sessions Court of Kottayam Judge C Jayachandran.
All the accused - Shanu, Niyas Mon (Chinnu), Ishan Ismail, Riyas Ibrahimkutty, Manu Muraleedhara, Shifin Sijad, N Nishad, Tittu Jerome, Fasil Sherif and Shanu Shajahan - will have to serve two life terms on two charges: IPC section 364 A (kidnap and threat to kill) and Section 302 (murder).
Kevin, a Dalit Christian man, was abducted on May 26, 2018 by Shanu Chacko, the brother of his wife Neenu. Kevin was found dead two days later on May 28. Neenu's father Chacko John (a Latin Catholic) and her brother had objected to the relationship. Shanu was enraged that Neenu had decided to marry Kevin and had abducted him along with his cousin Aneesh, from the latter’s home in Mannanam, just a few kilometres from Kevin’s house.
All the accused have been asked to pay a fine of Rs 40,000 each. The judge said that out of the total amount collected, Rs 1 lakh would be given to Kevin’s cousin Aneesh, the prime witness in the case. Aneesh’s house was vandalised by the convicts while they kidnapped the duo. The rest of the money will be given equally to Neenu and Kevin’s father, Joseph.
On August 22, the judge had declared that 10 out of the 14 fourteen accused were guilty and had acquitted four accused including Kevin’s partner Neenu’s father Chacko John.
The judge had said that this was a case of honour killing and Neenu’s statement that her brother and father were against her relationship with Kevin as he was a Dalit had proved the same.
The defence had appealed to take into consideration the age of all those convicted and the fact that none of them have a criminal background. This could perhaps be the reason for the court not delivering a death sentence despite calling it a rarest of rare case. According to a 2011 Supreme Court judgement by Justices Markandeya Katju and Gyan Sudha, ‘honour’ killing can be considered as ‘rarest of rare’ cases and deserving of death sentence.
23-year-old Kevin was murdered a day after he and Neenu registered their marriage on May 25, 2018. On May 26, Kevin and his cousin Aneesh Sebastian were abducted from the former’s house in Mannanam. On May 28, two days later, Kevin was found drowned in the Chaliyakkara canal near Thenmala in Kollam.
Kevin was a mechanic by profession. He was working in the Middle East and had come back to Kerala only a few months before his death.
There were 113 witnesses in the case, including Neenu, Kevin’s cousin Aneesh (the prime witness), Aneesh’s elder brother Jossan J (Second witness) and Lijo, a neighbour of Neenu’s family (26th witness). Later, however, five witnesses turned hostile.
Lijo, who is also a friend of Shanu Chacko, had allegedly been aware of the plot prior to the murder. His statement that Shanu had called him to say that Kevin had been killed proved crucial as it countered Shanu’s statement. Shanu had claimed that he did not kill Kevin as the victim had escaped from their custody and might have accidentally fallen into the water.
Neenu had told the court that her father Chacko and her brother Shanu would not let her marry a Dalit.