A principal sessions court in Kerala’s Kottayam district on Tuesday sentenced 10 people accused of killing a Dalit Christian man last year to double life imprisonment, PTI reported.

Last week, the court had convicted 10 of the 14 people in the case. The court said that the relatives of Kevin P Joseph’s wife were involved in his murder, and called it a case of “honour killing”.

This is the first time anyone has been convicted of caste killing in Kerala, according to Manorama Online.

The double life sentence can be served concurrently and each convict has to pay a fine of Rs 40,000. The court ordered Rs 1 lakh of this money to be given to Aneesh Sebastian, Joseph’s friend who was also kidnapped and assaulted, as compensation. The remaining Rs 1.5 lakh will be paid to Joseph’s wife Neenu Chacko and to his father.

Joseph’s father said a double life sentence was a fair punishment, but added that the legal fight against Chacko’s father would continue since he was acquitted by the court.

On Saturday, the court witnessed dramatic scenes during the final hearing. All 10 convicts broke down before the judge and pleaded with him to take into account their age and family situation while deciding their sentences. However, the prosecution pressed for exemplary punishment for the guilty and cited Supreme Court observations in other such caste and religion-related murders.

Kevin Joseph was found dead in Kollam city on May 28, 2018, three days after he married Neenu Chacko, who is from an elite Christian family. Soon after, the police arrested Chacko’s father, brother and three relatives. However, the court convicted only 10 people including Joseph’s brother-in-law, and acquitted the rest because of lack of evidence.

The prosecution had argued that Joseph’s brother-in-law Syanu Chacko and his father-in-law Chacko John were reluctant to let Neenu Chacko marry Joseph. The defence counsel refuted the charge, claiming that Chacko John had agreed to the marriage during a reconciliation talk held at a police station.

Neenu Chacko had disputed this.“My father did not allow me to live with Kevin,” she had said, adding that he was abducted and killed by her family members. She now lives with Joseph’s parents.

The trial in the case began on April 24 with the examination of witnesses, followed by examination of the accused. The hearing was completed in a record time of just over three months, and was conducted without any interruptions. The proceedings drew to a close on July 30.

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