New Delhi: The Kerala High Court on Wednesday put on hold for a month the proceedings in a trial court against state Transport Minister Antony Raju for alleged tampering of evidence in a drug seizure case reported in 1990.
Justice Ziyad Rahman A A passed the interim order while taking on record Raju's plea claiming that proceedings against him in the lower court were a clear abuse of the legal process.
The high court also prima facie agreed with the minister's claim that the prosecution initiated against him was illegal as it was done by the police and not the court.
The high court arrived at the prima facie view after perusing the documents placed before it.
Recently, the same bench of the high court had sought a report from the lower court in Thiruvananthapuram over an alleged delay in trial of the criminal case in which Raju is also an accused.
The case against the minister, a leader of Janadhipathya Kerala Congress party, which is an ally of the ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF), relates to an alleged tampering of evidence in a drug seizure case reported in 1990. Raju was the lawyer of the accused in the drug case.
"...the continuation of the proceedings before the Court below is a clear abuse of the process of the Court as no court shall take cognizance of the offense under Section 193 of the IPC except upon a complaint filed by the Court, however, the court below took cognizance of the offense based upon the final report filed by the police," the minister has said in his plea.
The petition has said the prosecution has been initiated by the police and not by the court, which is per se illegal and the lower court has no jurisdiction to take cognizance of the offense if the complaint is not by the court, as the offence is alleged is section 193 of the IPC.
Earlier, the state government had justified the delay and said this was not the only case that has been pending before the courts.
The government had also claimed before the lower court that there was a conspiracy behind the plea.
The trial was yet to start in the case in which the charge sheet was filed in 2013.
The accused in the drug case, an Australian citizen, was arrested from the international airport in Thiruvananthapuram on charges of carrying hashish and the prosecution had produced an inner wear as part of the evidence against him saying the contraband was smuggled in that.
The Australian citizen was sentenced to 10 years of rigorous imprisonment.
However, he was acquitted by the High Court in 1993, after his counsel proved that the innerwear was too small for him.
A police probe later showed that Raju, who had appeared for the accused, had received the underwear from the court and returned it four months later before the accused moved the high court.
Following this, a district court had ordered a case to be registered against Raju and court clerk K Jose in connection with the tampering of the material evidence.
Court sources had said the case was deferred 22 times and Raju had never appeared before it in any of the hearings.
Raju, who contested in the election in 2021, had stated in his affidavit about this pending case.
The Minister, however, had refused to comment on the high court's observation saying the matter was sub judice.