The Kerala High Court on Tuesday acquitted 13 members of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh in a 2008 case related to the murder of a Communist Party of India (Marxist) functionary, Live Law reported.

A division bench of Justices K Vinod Chandran and C Jayachandran observed that the prosecution had built the case by tutoring witnesses and scripting a story.

VV Vishnu, a member of the CPI(M) youth wing the Democratic Youth Federation of India, was in 2008 hacked to death using swords, iron rods and other weapons in Kaithamukku locality of Thiruvananthapuram, the police had alleged.

The accused persons were booked under Indian Penal Code Sections 120B (criminal conspiracy), 143 (unlawful assembly), 147 (rioting), 148 (being armed with a deadly weapon), 302 (murder) and 149 (every member of unlawful assembly guilty of offence committed in prosecution of common object), Live Law reported.

In December 2016, eleven RSS members were sentenced to double life imprisonment by a Kerala court for the murder. Of the two other accused persons, one was given life imprisonment and the other a three-year jail term.

The prosecution told the High Court that there had been violent clashes between members of the RSS and CPI(M) since 2001. This led to Vishnu’s murder in 2008.

On Tuesday, the High Court lamented the prevalence of political murders in Kerala, Live Law reported.

“The saga written in blood continues and the memorials held by the rival parties offer no solace to destitute parents, helpless widows and orphaned children, who often lose the only breadwinner of the family,” the bench said before delivering the judgement.

Referring to Vishnu’s murder case, the court said that the prosecution had failed to prove that the accused persons committed the crime, Live Law reported.

“The eye-witness testimonials are incredulous, the identification unbelievable, the recoveries unsubstantiated and the seizures leading to nothing,” it said. “There is absolutely no evidence worth its salt, and the prosecution failed to prove any corroborative circumstance, but for the political rivalry existing between two groups.”

The court also said that there were contradictions and omissions in the testimony of the witnesses presented by the prosecution. Most of the witnesses, the bench said, had turned hostile.

According to Live Law, the bench also found that three investigating officers were changed within a period of five months. Two accused persons were arrested without sufficient evidence of their involvement in the crime, the court noted. They were taken into custody, but the documents related to the arrest were not produced in the court.

“There is a deliberate attempt visible, from the commencement of the investigation, to project half-truths and cherry-pick witnesses so as to shape the case in a particular manner,” the bench added.

The bench noted that the crime took place within two minutes and it was impossible for the witnesses to observe the details of the murder weapon and the clothes worn by the assailants.

“It is time we express a caution, that the version of a witness, however exhaustive, extensive and precise the same be, is of no avail, unless it is believable and trustworthy,” it said.