Kerala: NIA apprehends first accused in hand-chopping case of T.J. Joseph

The attack on the college professor in 2010 was carried out by members of the now-outlawed Islamic outfit PFI over a reference to Prophet Mohammed in a question paper

Savad, the first accused in the case, is set to be produced before the NIA Special Court in Kochi on 10 January (representative image: IANS)
Savad, the first accused in the case, is set to be produced before the NIA Special Court in Kochi on 10 January (representative image: IANS)

NH Digital

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) has arrested Savad, the primary accused in the professor T.J. Joseph hand-chopping case, 13 years after the gruesome incident. The NIA's fugitive tracking team raided a house in Mattannur and arrested Savad on the night of Tuesday, 9 January.

He is set to be produced before the NIA Special Court in Kochi on 10 Wednesday. The agency will seek his custody as part of collecting crucial evidence in the case. Last year, the NIA had announced a reward of Rs 10 lakh for information on Savad.

He was picked up from his rented home at Beram, ward 10, in Mattannur, where he has been staying for the past five months and working as a carpenter. The 38-year-old resident of Asamannoor village in Ernakulam district has been absconding ever since the incident, which happened on 4 July 2010.

The right hand of Joseph, professor of Newman College in Thodupuzha in Idukki district, was chopped off by Savad and a few other workers of the now-outlawed Islamic outfit PFI on 4 July 2010. Attacked when he was returning home with his family after attending Sunday mass in a church in Muvattupuzha in Ernakulam, Joseph was pulled out of his vehicle and assaulted by the PFI members, and then Savad chopped off his right hand.

Savad reportedly wanted to kill Joseph for a reference to Prophet Mohammed in a question paper he had set for a BCom semester examination in Newman College. In 2010, after a controversy erupted over the question paper, and Muslim outfits in Kerala protested against him alleging blasphemy. He was arrested and later granted bail in the case. Later, a court acquitted Joseph of the alleged blasphemy.

The attack on the college professor was one of the cases that led to the ban of the organisation.

There were 54 accused in the case. As many as 37 were charge sheeted and 31 faced trial. Of the 31, the Special Court for NIA convicted 13 accused and acquitted 18 others in April 2015. Savad was the only accused who has been on the run till now. With his arrest, the NIA is set to submit another supplementary chargesheet in court. The accused were charge-sheeted under several sections of the Indian Penal Code, the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and the Explosive Substances Act.

The NIA, which took over the probe from the Kerala Police, found that the attack was an act of terrorism and slapped UAPA against the accused. In 2015, in the first phase of trial, the NIA court in Kochi found 13 accused in the hand-chopping case guilty and acquitted 18 others. At the time of the trial of the first batch of accused, the 11 mentioned in the supplementary chargesheet, were absconding.

A special NIA court had awarded a life sentence to three people in the case last year. Second accused Sajil (36), third accused MK Nasar (46) and fifth accused K A Najeeb (42) have been are sentenced to life term. A three-year jail term has been awarded to the other three convicts- PP Moideen Kunju (60), MK Naushad (48) and PM Ayoob (48).

Special NIA court judge Anil K Bhaskar had found the six activists of banned radical Islamic outfit Popular Front of India (PFI) guilty of murder attempt, conspiracy and various other offences under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) in the second phase of the trial in the case.

Savad had reportedly left for Bengaluru after the incident along with MK Nasar, the third accused in the case. Though Nasar had surrendered four years ago, the first accused was out of the reach of the investigating agency as he kept shifting his hideouts for the last 13 years.

After the hand-chopping incident, the Catholic management of Newman College suspended him from service. Despite demands from the state government, civil society and the university that Joseph be reinstated, the Catholic Church did not take any action in his favour.

Joseph’s wife Salomy died by suicide on 20 March 2014, allegedly dejected by the Church’s reluctance to reinstate Joseph, who was the sole breadwinner of the family. Joseph had said then that the Church’s action had pained him more than the PFI attack.

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