Delivering justice after 24 years, the Supreme Court sentenced five CPM activists to a seven-year jail term for murdering BJP activist in Kerala’s Thrissur district. The court observed that if one is consciously part of a mob, he would be liable for every action of the unlawful assembly.
On March 10, 1993, a mob of which these five were part of, searched for BJP activists and dragged one Suresh Babu from a bus at Ottappilavu and killed him. The Kerala High Court had acquitted them as they did not actively participate in the killing. The High Court said that the five did not share the common object of the mob.
The case was referred to the Supreme Court where it was dragged in for over 11 years. According to TOI, a bench of Justices SA Bobde and L Nageswara Rao said it did not agree with the reasoning given by the HC for the acquittal of Majeed, Ummer aka Podi Ummer, Balaji, Muraleedharan and Hasheem.
“The evidence on record show that the deceased and accused belonged to two rival political parties. There were three other incidents of clashes between the rival groups. The existence of a CPM office at Ottappilavu junction is proved by a sketch of the incident,” the apex court bench said.
“The accused along with others assembled and were searching for BJP workers travelling in the buses that were passing through the junction. We do not agree with the finding of the HC that merely because the accused did not plan to murder Suresh Babu, there was no common object. The common object of the members of the unlawful assembly was to attack any BJP supporter who was passing through Ottappilavu junction. Unfortunately, Suresh Babu was on the bus and he was killed in the attack,” said Justice Rao, who wrote the main judgement.
Justice Bobde supplemented Justice Rao’s judgement with logic on the culpability of members to the crime committed by an unlawful assembly.
He said: “The presence of an accused as part of an unlawful assembly, when not as a curious onlooker or bystander, suggests his participation in the object of the assembly.”
Justice Bobde said answers to questions — whether he made any attempt to stop the assembly from pursuing the object of committing murder; if he did and failed, did he disassociate himself from the assembly by getting away — would establish the active participation in the crime committed by an unlawful assembly.