KOCHI: In a major setback for the CBI, the Kerala High Court on Thursday set aside the life imprisonment of eight accused in the sensational Paul Muthoot George murder case. The Thiruvananthapuram CBI Special Court had awarded life term to the nine accused and imposed a fine of Rs 50,000 each for the offence under section 302 of IPC (murder).
Second accused Satheesh Kumar alias Kari Satheesh, who had stabbed Paul, did not file an appeal before the HC. A Division Bench comprising Justice A M Shaffique and Justice N Anilkumar passed the order while partially allowing the appeal filed by Jayachandran, Sujith, Akash Sasidharan, Satheesh Kumar, Rajeev Kumar, Shino Paul (all from Payippad), Sathar (Thrikodithanam) and Faisal (Mannanchery) seeking to quash the life imprisonment awarded to them.
While the bench quashed the life term for the eight accused on the murder charge, they have to undergo punishment for the other offences. Paul, a 32-year-old businessman, was stabbed to death in a road-rage incident at Ponga, on the Alappuzha-Changanassery road, on the night of August 21, 2009.
‘It is murder most foul done in a dastardly manner’
The murder occurred when the gang was on its way to attack Kurangu Nissar, Shameer and others. They were travelling in two separate vehicles. In an unusual coincidence of events, they chanced to witness the car driven by Paul hit a motorbike and speed away. Jayachandran, the first accused, exhorted others to chase the car. The accused two to eight got into a tempo traveller and chased the car.
On the way, the accused spotted Paul’s car. They questioned him as to why the vehicle was not stopped and the fourth accused pushed Paul. He said he was sorry for the incident and asked them not to beat him. In the ensuing scuffle, Kari Satheesh, the second accused, stabbed the businessman to death.
The CBI had filed two sets of charge sheet in the case --- first alleging unlawful assembly, rioting and criminal intimidation against 14 accused and the second for the offence of murder of Paul and destruction of evidence against 14 accused. Some of the accused were involved in both cases. The bench observed that though there was an unlawful assembly, it could not be stated that the accused entertained a common objective at any point of time to commit murder.
“The evidence itself proves beyond any doubt that Paul sustained injuries at the hands of Kari Satheesh.” “It’s nothing but a cold-blooded murder,” observed the court which, however, added it was not a pre-planned crime. Everything started when the Ford Endeavour car hit the motorcycle. The accused were proceeding towards Mannandanam to commit another crime.