Brutal murder of a BJP leader in Kerala: A court awards death penalty to all 15 convicts...All you need to know about the chilling case!

Ten days after convicting all fifteen accused in a case of brutally murdering a BJP leader, a Kerala court has on Tuesday - January 30 pronounced a verdict, awarding death penalty to all the convicts. Observing it as the rarest of rare case, the court has conferred capital punishment on the convicts and the verdict has also marked a rarest of rare event of a mass execution. 

The verdict was connected to a crime that happened in December 2021 in the Alappuzha district of Kerala and the crime has a history of communal clash and enmity. Ranjith Sreenivasan, a BJP leader who was a state secretary of the party's OBC wing and a lawyer by profession, was brutally hacked to death on December 19, 2021 at his residence in Vellakinar, Alappuzha.

Shockingly, the assailants murdered him in front of his mother, wife, and daughter. Fifteen accused were apprehended in connection to the crime and after over two years since the crime was committed, a court in Kerala had awarded death penalty to all the convicts. These fifteen accused were convicted by the court on January 20, 2024, under Section 302 - murder of the Indian Penal Code.

All of the convicts belong to Alappuzha and they were part of now-banned Popular Front of India (PFI) and its political arm Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI). After reserving the judgment, the Mavelikara Additional District Sessions court has on Tuesday delivered its verdict amid tight security and sharp attention. By awarding death penalty to all the fifteen convicts, Justice V G Sreedevi noted that the murder falls under the category of the rarest of rare case. 

The fifteen convicts are - Naisam, Anoop, Ajmal, Mohammed Aslam, Abdul Kalam alias Salam, Abdul Kalam, Saffaruddin, Manshad, Jasseb Raja, Navas, Sameer, Nazir, Zakir Hussain, Shaji Poovathungal, and Shernas Ashraf. The court was brought under a stern security as hundreds of police officers had guarded the premises in the wake of a verdict in a high-profile case. As the court has awarded death penalty to all the convicts, the bereaving family of the victim had welcomed the verdict. 

The background of the case

Earlier, the court had convicted all of the convicts under Section 302 - murder and besides the murder charge, the court had also found the first eight accused guilty under Sections 302 - murder, 149 - unlawful assembly, 449 - house trespass to commit an offence punishable with death, 506 - criminal intimidation, and 341 - wrongful restraint of the Indian Penal Code. 

It was these eight accused who stormed into the residence of Ranjith Sreenivasan during the morning hours of December 19, 2021, and brutally hacked him to death in the presence of his family. While they were committing the crime inside the residence, the rest of the accused stood guard outside the residence with deadly weapons. These accused were booked under several sections including 302 and 447 - criminal trespass of the Indian Penal Code. 

The court has also noted that the 13th accused Zakir Hussain, 14th accused Shaji Poovathungal, and 15th accused Shernas Ashraf were key conspirators of the crime and they were found guilty of criminal conspiracy under IPC sections 120B. According to the probing team, the brutal murder of BJP leader Ranjith Sreenivasan was an act of retaliation to avenge the murder of SDPI's state secretary KS Khan at Kuppezham Junction at Mannancherry, Alappuzha. 

KS Khan was killed by the workers of the RSS, which is the parent body of the BJP and in what has become a chain of communal clash, the investigation has revealed that KS Khan was murdered by the RSS activists to avenge the killing of RSS worker Nandukrishna by the cadres of SDPI at Vayalar, Alappuzha on February 24, 2021. The back-to-back murders in a year had sparked communal tensions in Kerala and the state government has fastened the investigation into the chilling crime. 

The murder case was investigated by a special team led by Alappuzha Deputy Superintendent of Police, N R Jayaraj and during the trial, the court had recorded statements from 156 witnesses and the prosecution had also submitted about 1,000 documents and 100 material objects as evidence. Kerala-based Onmanorama has cited that a hit list discovered on one of the accused Anoop's mobile phone, which included the names of several individuals, including Ranjith Sreenivasan, targeted for a retaliatory strike, became a crucial evidence in the matter.