SC rejects NIA's plea against grant of bail to man accused of chopping off palm of Kerala professor

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New Delhi, Feb 1 (PTI) The Supreme Court Monday dismissed an appeal of National Investigation Agency (NIA) against the grant of bail by the Kerala High Court to a person who is one of the accused in the sensational case of 2010 in which palm of a professor was chopped off for allegedly framing an objectionable question to Muslim community in the examination paper. Several members of Popular Front of India (PFI) were arrested for chopping the hand of Professor T J Joseph at Muvattupuzha on July 4, 2010.

The members of the PFI, allegedly an extremist Islamic organisation, had got enraged with one of the questions for the internal examination of B. Com students at Newman College, Thodupuzha and had attacked the professor while he was returning home with his mother and sister after attending Sunday mass at a local Church.

A bench comprising justices N V Ramana, Surya Kant and Aniruddha Bose did not allow the appeal of the Centre and said that the accused K A Najeeb, who had initially absconded, has been in judicial custody for almost five years.

“We are not inclined to interfere with the impugned order. However, we feel that besides the conditions to be imposed by the trial Court while releasing the respondent, it would serve the best interest of justice and the society at large to impose some additional conditions that the respondent shall mark his presence every week on Monday at 10AM at the local police station and inform in writing that he is not involved in any other new crime,” Justice Surya Kant, who wrote the judgement for the bench, said.

The bench said accused Najeeb shall also “refrain from participating in any activity which might enrage communal sentiments. In case the respondent is found to have violated any of his bail conditions or attempted to have tampered the evidence, influence witnesses, or hamper the trial in any other way, then the Special Court shall be at liberty to cancel his bail forthwith.” Over the course of the attack, members of the PFI had forcefully intercepted the victim's car, restrained him and chopped off his right palm with choppers, knives, and a small axe and country made bombs were also hurled at bystanders to create panic and terror in their minds and to prevent them from coming to the aid of the victim, the apex court said.

It noted that several co accused were tried and most of them were found guilty by the special NIA court on April 30, 2015 and were awarded cumulative sentences ranging between two and eight years' rigorous imprisonment.

It noted that as the present accused had absconded, his trial got separated and now the fresh proceedings against him are at very initial stage.

“Not only has the respondent been in jail for much more than five years, but there are 276 witnesses left to be examined. Charges have been framed only on November 27, 2020. Still further, two opportunities were given to the appellant ­NIA who has shown no inclination to screen its endless list of witnesses. It also deserves mention that of the thirteen co-accused who have been convicted, none have been given a sentence of more than eight years' rigorous imprisonment.

“It can therefore be legitimately expected that if found guilty, the respondent too would receive a sentence within the same ballpark. Given that two third of such incarceration is already complete, it appears that the respondent has already paid heavily for his acts of fleeing from justice,” the judgement said.

It said the high court had granted bail noting that the trial was yet to begin though the accused had been in custody for four years by then.

“The operation of the aforementioned bail order was, however, stayed by this Court. Resultantly, the respondent has spent nearly five years and five months in judicial custody,” it said. PTI SJK RKS RKS