India: Cop convicted of murdering Maoist 40 years ago

[In India, the wheels of justice turn exceedingly slow.  And in this case, the wheels would not have turned at all, except that the cop (who is now deceased) who did the killing, in a fit of guilt and remorse, told the story which brought the murderous orders of his commander to light.  This article does not connect this history with the “fake encounters” still being committed by police today.–ed]

K Lakshmana was found guilty of murder

October 28, 2010
Former IG gets life term for Naxal murder

Varghese was gunned downed by police in what they had then called as encounter

Former inspector general of police K. Lakshmana was  sentenced to life imprisonment by a CBI court here on Thursday for killing Maoist leader A. Verghese in a fake encounter 40 years ago.

This is the first time a senior police officer has been convicted for life for killing a rebel in a fake encounter.

Soon after CBI judge S. Vijayakumar gave the verdict, Lakshmana (78) was sent to the Thiruvananthapuram central jail.

Verghese’s brother A. Thomas said he was happy. “It is a lesson for those in khaki who take the law into their own hands,” he said.

Sakhavu Varghese, murdered by police (1970)

Former Maoist and activist K. Ajitha also described the verdict as a historic one. “It is an eye-opener. Though late, this will help many such aggrieved families get justice,” she said.

The judgment, which comes at a time when the country faces a renewed and a vastly strengthened variety of Naxalism, stressed the dedication and care required to deal with such a threat.

The police shot dead Verghese, then a 28-year-old political activist, in the Tirunelli forests (in northern Wayanad district) in February 1970, and said he had been killed in a shootout.

But former head constable Ramachandran Nair, probably under the stress of a guilty conscience, revealed in 1998 that he had killed Verghese on the orders of his superiors, especially Lakshmana, who was then a deputy superintendent of police. Lakshmana was later inducted into the Indian Police Service.

After Nair’s disclosure, A. Thomas moved the Kerala High Court seeking a CBI probe. The CBI prepared a charge-sheet against Nair, Lakshmana and P. Vijayan (83), who was the state’s director general of police in the 1980s.

The court acquitted Vijayan for lack of evidence.

Nair died in 2006. Days before his death, he said he would like to be hanged for the crime he had committed.

Naxal Varghese killing: Kerala ex-IG guilty

Oct 2010

KOCHI: Forty years after the encounter killing of Naxal leader A Varghese in Kerala’s Waynad forests, a court today held he was brutally killed and convicted former IGP K Lakshamana of murder but acquitted another top retired police official.

The theory of death of Varghese (43) in police encounter was an advance defence moulded as a pretext to commit the crime, said CBI special court judge S Vijay Kumar, as 74-year-old Lakshamana and 83-year-old wheelchair-bound ex- DGP P Vijayan heard the verdict with their family members.

“… no more evidence is needed, it is proved beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt that Varghese who was caught alive was brutally killed by the first accused (late CRPF constable Ramachandran Nair) who was a stooge of Lakshamana who on his order brought about his plan,” he said.

The quantum of sentence will be pronounced tomorrow.

Vijayan, who was given the benefit of doubt, said he was happy with the verdict while Lakshamana was taken to the Ernakulam sub-jail. Vijayan was SP when the incident occurred.

The case was resurrected a few years ago after Nair confessed in 1998 that he had shot Varghese at the behest of his superiors Vijayan and Lakshamana. Nair, who had said he made the confession to clear his conscience, died in 2006.

Lakshamana was also an accused in the infamous Rajan murder case, relating to the death of the Calicut Regional engineering college student who disappeared after being taken into custody by police for suspected links with Naxalites on March 1, 1976 during the Emergency. Lakshamana was, however, later acquitted in the case.After the lifting of Emergency, Rajan’s father T V Eachara Warrier fought a long legal battle and investigation following his habeas corpus petition in the Kerala High Court found that Rajan had perhaps died in police custody.

Varghese was gunned downed by police in what they had then called as encounter in the Thiruvenlli forests on February 18, 1970. Judge Vijay Kumar said Nair had committed the murder on the command of Lakshmana, the second accused, who was then DySP. He convicted Lakshmana of the offence under under IPC section 302 (murder) read with section 34 (criminal act done by several persons with common intention). The judge said the statement of witnesses has established Lakshamana’s presence on the spot of crime and his giving threatening instructions to Nair to kill Varghese.

“Truth by its very nature does not yield to be kept hidden for ever. Truth which has been hither to hidden as covered by the glitter of golden plate, has by now, though belatedly, been discovered. Truth triumphs; Truth alone,” the judge observed.

“The offence of custodial murder, be it of an extremist, terrorist or Naxalite, in the hands of police whose duty is to produce him before a court for trial, does not get wiped off merely by efflux of time, be it decades… cannot be justified in a society like ours where a written Constitution as ours reigns,” the court held.

Available evidence in this case has withstood the test of time and has convincingly proved the complicity of Lakshamana. Equally the evidence is also not sufficient to prove the involvement of third accused, P Vijayan beyond reasonable doubt, the court held.

CBI took over the case on a 1999 directive from the Kerala High Court after Varghese’s brothers approached it citing Nair’s confession.

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