Police filed chargesheet against 27 accused day before yesterday in the much hyped case of a small town Muvattupuzha in Kerala in which the right hand of T J Joseph, a private college Malyalam lecturer, was chopped off allegedly by activists of a Muslim outfit Popular Front of India (PFI) on July 4 last year.
The chargesheet filed before the First Additional Sessions court, Ernakulam, V Shircy, lists 54 persons in the accusation in the case and reports that a few alleged ones are absconding. Cases have been registered against the accused for offences against the Nation, and under various sects of IPC including 120, 143, 148 (riot, unlawful assembly, 120(B) (Criminal conspiracy) 323 (Hurt) and 307 (attempt to murder), Sect 3 of Explosive substance act and various sections of unlawful activities (Prevention) Act. The case has been posted to January 18 for hearing.
Six months back, Joseph asked a libelous question to his students in the test paper insulting the sanctity of Prophet Muhammad, which enraged some local youths and eventually his hand was chopped off by someone understood to be a new recruit of the organisation. The said professor was sacked by the management of his Newman College and the PFI removed the alleged youth and his accomplice from its membership and forthwith condemned the act.
Instead of receiving appreciation for its restraints in a highly volatile issue, the PFI was blown out of the size by media and posed it as a fundamentalist and violent organisation.
Some of the latest legal developments would perhaps give a sigh of relief to it and improve its public image.
On January 3, Kerala high court judge V Shersi granted bail for the first and second accused in the case, Jafer and Kaladi Ashraf, citing the inability of the prosecution to file charge sheet against the accused within the stipulated period. Another accused Dr Raneef got relief from the Supreme Court on 4th January, which upheld the Kerala High court order to grant bail against the will of the state government. All of them were also charged under the IPC, the Explosive Substances Act, and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention). Not only these two instances of judgments diffusing the police theory, the remarks made by the apex court further makes dent to its reputation.
Referring to the treatment of one of the accused assailant by Dr Raneef, considered by the police as an act of collaboration, the bench of justices Markandey Katju and Gyan Sudha Misra said, ‘the respondent, being a doctor, was under the Hippocratic oath (oath stating obligations and proper conduct of doctors) to attempt to heal a patient. Just as it is the duty of a lawyer to defend an accused, so it is the duty of a doctor to heal. Even a dentist can apply stitches in an emergency.’ The court also remarked that the books like Jihad that are said to be confiscated from the doctor were available in open market and it is not a crime to have a copy in ones possession.
P Abdul Hameed, general secretary of Popular Front of India reacted that “by rejecting the appeal moved by Kerala government against the bail order, Supreme Court has brought out hollowness of police vilification campaign against Popular Front and its activists”. He further said those who are keen to give terrorist label to the organisations like Popular Front of India should be ready to read the judgment.
Raneef’s lawyer contended that he was not one of the assailants and he had also condemned the attack on Jacob. The defense also pointed out that the PFI was not a militant or terrorist organisation. The top court accepted the contention. On the allegation that Raneef belonged to the PFI, the court said that there was no proof to show that it was a terrorist organisation, and he could not be penalized merely for belonging to it.
Even assuming that the PFI was an illegal organisation, it has to be considered whether all members can be automatically held guilty, the honourable judges said. The court cited three US judgments in this context. In one, the US Supreme Court had distinguished between active “knowing” membership and passive, merely nominal membership in a subversive organisation does not qualify one for prosecution.
Since the hand chopping event, the PFI has been illustrated in some media stories as a sort of violent organisation and the Front has started legal action against some of those responsible for the slander, informed one of the PFI’s state president. He was of the opinion that the left front government was playing a communal card being scared of Muslim voters’ swing against it in the ensuing assembly elections, as evinced by the recent local body debacle of the leftists in the state.
The PFI rubbishes the event as a sporadic outrage on the inflammatory behavior of the Christian teacher and think it unacceptable but akin to routine CPM-RSS clashes in Kerala in which not only body parts have been chopped off but several political workers have lost their lives for years together, one of the office-bearers commented. He wondered how the media and the state establishment have singled out his organisation for the blame game.
The so-called ‘hand chopping case’ has been debated during the past few months in a high pitch which only added the Popular Front in granering popularity among Muslim youth in the state and outside so much so that one of the accused, a college teacher Anas, won a local body election from behind the bar and was squbsequetly released on bail
The de-politicisation of political Islam
The key lies on the Federal Constitution. As long as it remains the status quo, Malaysia will continue the implementation of the common law and thus, will never be an Islamic state. under the Federal Constitution
How do you know that your country is in deep shit?
And so, as if Malaysians were not tired and jaded enough, the Hudud issue is back in the limelight in the country. It seems odd, to say the least, that an issue that dates back to the 1980s has been resurrected once again.
There are those who state that this time round it was not PAS that put the issue on the table, but that the Islamist party was merely responding to a challenge posed by its detractors (UMNO).
True though that may be, the fact is that PAS fell into the trap hook, line and sinker; and that as a result the deep ideological cleavages between PAS, PKR and DAP have come to the foreground once again.
This debate will never go away as it is a political debate, and as such will remain a political and politicised issue. To ask PAS to abandon the issue of Hudud and Shariah law is as odd as asking a Socialist party to abandon Socialism or a Conservative party to abandon Conservatism.