Madhu lynching case: Kerala court awards 7 years RI to first accused, jail term for others

A mob lynched the tribal youth at Agali in the Palakkad district, accusing him of stealing food items, on 22 February 2022.

BySouth First Desk

Published Apr 05, 2023 | 2:05 PM Updated Apr 05, 2023 | 4:52 PM

Malli, Madhu's mother

A special court at Mannarkkad in Kerala’s Palakkad district on Wednesday, 5 April, sentenced a man — the first accused Hussain Mecheriyil — to seven years rigorous imprisonment, and handed out seven-year jail terms to 12 others for lynching a tribal youth.

Judge KM Ratheesh Kumar of the SC-ST Special Court also slapped a fine of ₹1 lakh each on the convicts.

The 16th accused in the case, Muneer, was held guilty only for “assault or criminal force otherwise than on grave provocation” under Section 352 the IPC. He was awarded three months imprisonment and a fine of ₹500.

The convicts were shifted to Central Prison & Correctional Home at Thavanoor in the neighbouring Malappuram district.

The court had, on Tuesday, found 14 people guilty of lynching Madhu, 30, to death on 22 February, 2018. The mob lynched him, accusing him of stealing food items from grocery stores at Agali in Kerala’s Palakkad district.

They were found guilty of culpable homicide not amounting to murder under Section 304 Part II of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and various other offences under the IPC, Special Public Prosecutor (SPP) Rajesh M Menon told reporters.

The high court-monitored trial grabbed headlines after several witnesses turned hostile — and with the state Forest Department terminating the services of four of its employees, who went against the prosecution.

Mollywood megastar star Mammootty had also intervened in the case, sending his personal lawyer, Advocate Nandakumar, to the bereaved family. The actor was not immediately available for comment on Wednesday.

The special court depended heavily on digital evidence during the trial. Some of the convicts themselves had recorded the assault on Madhu and circulated the videos on social media.

A kangaroo court that killed Madhu

The lynching by a kangaroo court grabbed national headlines, especially since it had happened in the backward tribal belt of Attappady.

A mob had entered the forest to capture Madhu, a mentally unsound person, from a cave he had been living in. They also found the stolen goods — rice and condiments — in his possession.

The tribal youth was tied up using a long zipper, dragged, and paraded to Mukkalikavala, a forest-fringe village in Agali, where he was brutally assaulted. Though the police took custody of him, he died en route to the station.

A chargesheet filed on 23 May 2018 named 16 persons as accused in the case. The fourth and 11th accused, Aneesh and Abdul Kareem, respectively, were acquitted on Tuesday, 4 April.

Madhu’s mother Malli told reporters that she would challenge the acquittal of the duo.

The accused were ssain Mecheriyil (first accused), Kilayil Maraikkar (second), Shamsudheen (third), Radhakrishnan (fifth), Abubacker (sixth), Siddique (seventh), Ubaid (eighth), Najeeb (ninth), Jaijumon (10th), Sajeevan (12th), Satheesh (13th), Hareesh (14th), Biju (15th) and Muneer (16th) guilty of various crimes.

Also read: How justice is elusive for Attappady tribals

Madhu’s kin to appeal against verdict

“I will appeal against this verdict. All of them are guilty,” Madhu’s mother had told reporters outside the court.

The victim’s sister had said she was thankful to the court for convicting 14 of the 16 accused but would appeal against the acquittal of the two persons. She was happy with the outcome, she said, as no one had thought they would be able to carry on their fight to gain justice for Madhu this long and to this stage.

“So, I will no longer be disappointed or sad. I know I can take this matter to the Supreme Court if required. We will go in an appeal seeking murder charges (for all 16) and against the acquittal of the two accused.

“I do not believe that my brother has got justice. He will not get justice till all of them are convicted,” she had said outside the court.

While expressing happiness over the verdict, SPP Menon said the sentences imposed were “not sufficient”.

“They deserved to get life imprisonment,” he said and added that he strongly believes the state will appeal for enhancement of the punishment.

The SPP said that not sentencing the convicts to life term was an “anomaly” in the court’s decision.

The convicts were also sentenced for varying terms for other offences under the IPC, but as the jail terms have to be served concurrently, they will serve only seven years, he said.

Madhu’s family too expressed their dissatisfaction with the punishment given to the convicts and said that it was not enough.

“The sentence is not enough,” his mother told reporters outside the court.

His sister Sarasu, too, echoed it and alleged a failure on the part of the court to impose a higher punishment.

“We are not satisfied with the punishment given. There has been a failure on the part of the court. The court probably did not understand what happened, how he was beaten and brought out from the forest. This court was meant to protect our interests.

“If we do not get justice here, where will we have to go for that? The only option we have is to move the higher courts. We will get justice for Madhu, even if we have to go to the Supreme Court for it,” she said.

Also read: Nine out of 12 accused absconding after court quashes bail

Call for a mental institute

She urged the state government to set up a mental institution in Attappady and said that such an incident should never happen in Kerala.

A detailed judgment is not yet available.

Of the 13, the first accused was convicted for the offence under Section 304 II of IPC and the remaining 12 were additionally held guilty for crimes under Section 326 (voluntarily causing grievous hurt by dangerous weapons or means) and 367 (kidnapping or abducting to subject a person to grievous hurt, slavery) of the IPC.

The 12 convicts were also held guilty of the offence under Section 3(1)(d) of the SC/ST Act, the SPP said.

The 16th accused in the case was only held guilty for the offence of “assault or criminal force otherwise than on grave provocation” under Section 352 IPC, which carries a punishment that may extend to three months or a fine which may extend to Rs 500 or both, he said.
The remaining two accused in the case were acquitted by the court.

SPP Menon had said on Tuesday, after the conviction, that the case was weakened due to several witnesses turning hostile.

More than 15 witnesses had turned hostile during the trial.

According to the post-mortem report, Madhu had injuries on the head and bruises all over the body, including broken ribs, as well as internal bleeding.

Madhu had been living in a cave in the forest for the past several months before his death, his family said.

His mother and sister told television channels in 2018 that a group of nearly 10-15 persons had gone to the forest and thrashed him for allegedly stealing food articles from some shops in the forest-fringe town of Agali in Palakkad district.

(With PTI inputs)