Former Kerala cop gets life term for Maoist’s murder

A 40-year-old case came back to haunt a retired Kerala police officer Thursday when he was sentenced to life imprisonment by a CBI Special Court for killing a Maoist leader in cold blood and passing it off as a shootout.

Retired Inspector General of Police K. Lakshmana, now 74, was found guilty of murdering the Maoist leader – popularly known as ‘Naxal Varghese’ – by Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) special court judge S. Vijayakumar a day earlier.

Lakshmana, the second accused in the case, has been sent to the Central Jail in Thiruvananthapuram.

The case goes back 40 years to Feb 18, 1970, the day Lakshmana directed Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) constable Ramachandran Nair to shoot dead Varghese, who was in police custody, in Wayanad district.

Until Nair revealed the real story, it was believed that Varghese was killed in a shootout with police. The Maoist movement was very strong in Kerala at that time.

Nair, haunted by guilt, came out with the truth in 1998 and said he was asked to commit the crime and that there never was a police ‘encounter’ — the official euphemism for deaths in real and staged gunbattles.

After a series of petitions, the Kerala High Court asked the CBI to conduct a probe.

Nair later passed away. But clinching evidence for the CBI came when Nair’s colleague and retired constable A.K.M. Haneefa, who was a witness in the case, said Lakshmana was present at the spot when Varghese was shot dead.

The CBI court observed there was ample evidence to prove that Nair shot Varghese to death on the command of Lakshmana, who was an inspector then.

Lakshmana has been a controversial officer. He ran into trouble in the disappearence of engineering student Rajan, who was picked up by police during Emergency but was never seen again. After a long drawn legal battle, Lakshmana was exonerated in the case.

A. Joseph, Varghese’s brother, said he was happy that truth had triumphed.

However, a third accused in the case, former director general of police P. Vijayan, was given the benefit of doubt by the court and exonerated.

BKI terrorist Jagtar Hawara’s death sentence commuted to life

The Punjab and Haryana High Court Tuesday commuted to a life term the death sentence awarded to notorious Babbar Khalsa International (BKI) terrorist Jagtar Singh Hawara.

Hawara was a mastermind of the assassination of then Punjab chief minister Beant Singh at the high-security state secretariat complex here Aug 31, 1995.

The high court, however, upheld the death sentence to terrorist Balwant Singh, who had not opposed the gallows awarded to him after a 11-year-old trial in a special trial court here July 2007.

The high court also upheld the life sentence of three others who were convicted for the conspiracy behind Beant Singh’s assassination. They are Shamsher Singh, Gurmeet Singh and Lakhwinder Singh.

A special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court here had July 2007 sentenced the two BKI terrorists – Jagtar Singh Hawara and Balwant Singh – to death in the assassination case.

While Hawara was the mastermind of the assassination, Balwant Singh was the second human bomb to be used in case the first failed to kill Beant Singh. Balwant Singh, during the entire trial, had admitted that he was alone responsible for the killing of Beant Singh.

A sixth person convicted in the same case under the Explosives Act, Naseeb Singh, was awarded 10 years imprisonment by the court. However, he had already completed 12 years behind bars by then.

All six were last week convicted by the special CBI court in the conspiracy of assassinating Beant Singh.

The former chief minister (1992-95), who was largely credited with wiping out terrorism from Punjab by dealing with scourge with an iron hand along with supercop K.P.S. Gill.

Bangalore cabbie gets life term for Pratibha murder

Bangalore taxi driver Shiva Kumar was Friday sentenced to “life imprisonment till death” for the 2005 rape and murder of Hewlett Packard (HP) India employee Pratibha Murthy, prompting her mother to say tearfully that her daughter’s soul would now rest in peace.

Judge B.V Guddali of the 11th fast track court pronounced the judgment in a packed courtroom. The judge had Wednesday held Shiva Kumar guilty and convicted him on all the three charges of kidnapping, rape and murder of the 28-year-old.

The judge also sentenced the accused to 20 years of rigorous imprisonment with a fine of Rs.20,000 for raping Pratibha. Shiva Kumar was also handed down a sentence of 10 years rigorous imprisonment with a fine of Rs.10,000 for kidnapping her.

Pratibha’s mother Gowramma was in tears but said she had got justice.

“I got justice. May my daughter’s soul rest in peace now. Though my happiness has gone with Pratibha, she will be proud of the sentence,” a tearful Gowramma told reporters minutes after the judgment was pronounced.

But Pratibha’s uncle S. Srinivas said Shivakumar should have been given death penalty.

“The accused deserves capital sentence. He should not be in the world. Exemplary punishment should be given to him (Shiva Kumar) so it will be a deterrent to others in society,” Srinivas told reporters.

The accused picked up Pratibha from her house in south Bangalore in the wee hours of Dec 13, 2005 for graveyard shift (late night duty) at Hewlett Packard (HP) GlobalSoft Ltd and drove her to the outskirts of the city and then raped and murdered her in a gruesome manner.

Police found Pratibha’s body with her throat slit in a pit near Anjanapura layout the following day.

Though Shiva Kumar first confessed to the crime, he later backtracked and denied all the charges.

The trial has been going on in the courts for four-and-a-half years. It began in a sessions court in Bangalore in January 2007 and was shifted to a fast track court in December 2009.

A total of 71 witnesses had been examined in the case.

The rocked this tech hub and forced all IT firms to enhance security for the safety of their women employees.

Strike hits air, road traffic, disrupts life in Bengal

Normal life was disrupted, with air and road traffic severely hit, in most parts of West Bengal Tuesday due to a one-day nationwide shutdown called by nine major trade unions, including those of the Left and the Congress.

The strike was called to protest against price rise, violation of labour laws and privatisation.

More than 100 flights run by private airlines to and from Kolkata were cancelled in advance. However, 10 flights of state-run Air India took off from the Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose (NSCB) International Airport.

‘We have decided to operate all flights, though we have cancelled the Kolkata-Kathmandu flight and combined some domestic flights. All 10 flights we operated in the morning from the airport, including one in the Kolkata-Dhaka-Bangkok international sector, were full,’ an Air India spokesman told IANS.

Two other Air India flights also landed in the morning, he said.

There were no reports of any untoward incidents, police said.

The city, which bustles with activity on normal weekdays, saw empty roads as vehicles did not venture outdoor while the strike was total in industrial areas like Taratala.

Government and private buses did not ply and most people chose to remain indoors either fearing chaos on the roads or deciding to enjoy an unscheduled holiday with their families.

Banks, other offices and commercial establishments remained closed, while shops and markets did not open. Many schools, though unofficially, asked students not to come Tuesday to save them from any inconvenience on the roads.

The strike paralysed the industrial belt on both sides of the Hooghly river in Hooghly, Howrah and North 24 Parganas districts, with workers seen picketing before factories.

Railway and Metro Railway services remained normal as they were kept outside the purview of the strike, though only a handful of commuters availed of these modes of transport.

The minority dominated areas of the state were also exempted from the strike as the Muslim holy month of Ramadan is on, but most shops and markets in these belts also remained closed as traders from other areas could not reach their workplace due to transport problems.

The strike was called by the Coordination Committee of the Central Trade Unions headed by Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC) president G. Sanjeeva Reddy.