Court sentences 15 men to death in India for murder of local politician

All 15 accused were sentenced to death in rare judgment in Kerala  (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
All 15 accused were sentenced to death in rare judgment in Kerala (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

A court in the southern Indian state of Kerala awarded the death penalty to 15 men linked with a banned Islamic outfit for the murder of a local politician from the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in 2021.

Ranjith Sreenivasan, a lawyer and member of prime minister Narendra Modi-led BJP, was hacked to death in front of his wife, mother, and daughter in Alappuzha town in December 2021.

At least 15 men associated with the Popular Front of India (PFI) and its political wing Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI), were accused of killing Sreenivasan in a tit-for-tat murder. PFI was banned by the Indian government in 2022.

In a rare judgment, judge Sreedevi VG of the additional district sessions court on Tuesday said the accused, all aged between 25 and 49, could not be handed a lesser sentence as the murder was committed “most cruelly, heinously and dastardly".

The court found eight of the accused to be directly involved in the killing, while four others were found guilty of standing guard with weapons to prevent Srinivasan from escaping. The three remaining men were convicted of conspiracy to murder.

The judge said the report of the state shows that the "accused are hardcore criminals and there is no chance for reformation because they are very deeply interested in the affairs of the said organisation which is widespread in the country".

Following the verdict, prosecutor Prathap G Padikkal said even the three convicted for conspiracy to murder were awarded death as the court found it to be a "rarest of rare case".

“The court accepted the prosecution’s argument that it was a rarest of rare case since the accused were a well-trained team that barged into a house one early morning and cruelly hacked to death the victim before defenceless women and children,” he said, according to The New Indian Express.

The verdict was welcomed by Sreenivasan's family, who said the court couldn't have dismissed his dead as just another murder.

"Our loss is immense. We express our gratitude to the prosecution and investigating officers for conducting a thorough and honest investigation into the incident, ultimately resulting in the imposition of the maximum punishment," the victim's wife, Lisha Ranjith, said.

Sreenivasan was killed a day after an SDPI state secretary, KS Shan, was murdered in Alappuzha by the right wing. Eleven members of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the ideological head of the BJP, were charged over the murder of Shan and awaiting trial.

Shan was reportedly killed in a retaliatory attack for the murder of an RSS worker, Nandukrishna, allegedly by SDPI men in Alappuzha in February 2021.