PUCL Bulletin, Oct 1981

What Happened to the Rajan Case ?

Appeals against the District Court judgement in the Rajan case came up before a Divisional Bench of the Madras High Court in July 1981.

Both the Tamil Nadu State Government, as well as the police officers who were convicted - and sentenced, have appealed against the judgement of the- Sessions Judge, Coimbatore, M. A. Pakeeri Mohomed, delivered in September 1978. The Government appeals are for the enhancement of the punishment given to some offi-cers and for the conviction of the others acquitted by the lower court. On the other hand, the police officers are seeking their acquittal. A Division Bench consist-ing of Justice Natarajan and Justice Maheswaran is hearing the appeals.

On March 1, 1976, P. Rajan, a final year student of the Calicut Engineering College, was whisked away from the hostel in the early hours along with another student, Joseph Chali. Immediately after the arrest, the Princi-pal informed Rajan's father, T.V Eachara Warrior of his son's arrest. From the day word reached him in Ernakulam, where he was resident, Warrior made frantic efforts to trace this son. He met legislators, he petitioned the concerned authorities, he sought the help of the Home Minister, K. Karunakaran. All this had no effect. Those were the black days of the Emergency, when issues relating to the citizen's liberty could not be raised in the courts. After the Emergency was lifted, Warrior filed a suit of Habeas Corpus in the High Court in Ernakulam. The respondents were Home Minister K. Karunakaran, Home Secretary to Kerala Government, Inspector General of Police and other senior police officials. From the evidence of eight wit-nesses, it became clear that from the hostel, Rajan had been taken to the Tourist Bungalow, Kakkaya, in Cali-cut the next day where he was tortured by six police-men, including Sub-Inspector Puhikkode Narayanan.

But as far as the Government was concerned, Rajan was not arrested. The judge ordered that the boy be produced in court. Justice P. Subramaniam Potti, who heard the case observed, "Of course, it is open to res-pondents to show that Rajan is no longer in such cus-tody by reason of his having been released, or he hav-ing absconded; or having died in police custody."

At a subsequent hearing in a case which made legal history in Kerala, K. Karunakaran, Inspector General of Police V.N. Rajan -and Special Secretary to the State Government S. Narayanaswamy told the High Court that Raian had died in "unlawful police custody", as a result of continous police torture. A DIG was suspended and later arrested as was a Sub-Inspector.

The Division Bench of the Kerala High Court, consisting of Justice Subramaniam Potti and Justjce V.
Khalid held that Karunakaran had lied to the Court. They passed strictures against the then Police I.G., V.N. Rajan, who had in the interim period migrated to Central Government Services.

The verdict created a political furore in the state and following pressures from within the party and from the ruling front, Karunakaran had to resign as Chief Minister within one month of his taking oath. At the instance of the High Court, Karunakaran was also prosecuted for perjury but the Chief Judicial Magistrate of Ernakulam who tried the case, later acquitted him.

Another off shoot of the High Court verdict was the prosecution of the police officers by the State Gov-ernment. At the request of-the officers the case was transferred to Tamil Nadu.

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