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'Possessing Bhagat Singh's Book Not Illegal': Karnataka Court Acquits Tribal Youth, His Father of UAPA After 9 Years

Vittala Malekudia (C) and his father (L) outside the court. (Image: Screengrab from a video shared by Journalist Imran Khan on Twitter/@KeypadGuerilla)

Vittala Malekudia (C) and his father (L) outside the court. (Image: Screengrab from a video shared by Journalist Imran Khan on Twitter/@KeypadGuerilla)

During the search of their home, the anti-naxal forces had taken a book on freedom fighter Bhagat Singh, a binocular and other 36 items into custody.

Nine years after a tribal youth and his father were arrested by the Karnataka police for their alleged links with Naxalites, the district court acquitted them as the pieces of evidence produced by the prosecution were mere “articles required for day-to-day livelihood”. One of the materials seized by the anti-naxal unit of the police was a book on Bhagat Singh from the journalist’s hostel room.

The order was pronounced by the third additional district and sessions court in Dakshina Kannada district on Thursday. The court acquitted Vittala Malekudia (32) and his father Lingappa Malekudia (60) who were charged for having ties with Maoist elements.

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The Anti-Naxal Force (ANF) had arrested them on March 3, 2012 when Vittala was 23 and his father 51. After spending four months in jail, Vittala was granted bail in 2012.

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Vittala has now been working with a leading Kannada daily.

Acquitting Vittala and his father, Lingappa Malekudiya, the court said, “Possessing the books of Bhagat Singh is not barred under the law…reading of such newspapers is not barred under the law…mere possession of paper cuttings of newspaper does not amount to an offence.”

“It appears that the accused number 6 (Vittala), being the student of journalism, wrote such a letter to boycott the bye-election of Lok Sabha because the leaders have not fulfilled long standing demands of the tribal people of Kuthloor village. On reading it can be easily stated that such letters contain demands of local people,” the court further added.

The court also noted that as many as ten people from the village, who were among the 23 witnesses produced by the prosecution in the case, denied the allegations on Vittalaa and his father and none of the witnesses supported the police’s version of the case. “None of the villagers have spoken such fact. So, there is absolutely no evidence to prove that the accused were members of a Naxal group and they were concealing accused 1-5 or assisting them with naxal activities in Kuthloor village," read the judgement.

During the search of their home, ANF officers had taken a book on freedom fighter Bhagat Singh, a binocular and other 36 items into custody. His write up on boycotting of elections was considered a seditious act.

The case was registered at Venur police station. The charge sheet by the ANF mentioned Vittala Malekudia as the sixth accused, and his father Linganna Malekudia as the seventh accused.

Vittala Malekudia was studying his first year in Journalism at Mangaluru University at the time of his arrest. He had attended examinations while in custody. The photos of Vittala Malekudia writing exams in handcuffs had gone viral. Vittala was coordinating with journalists to highlight the plight of the Malekudia community.

Judge Basappa Balappa Jakati gave the order of their acquittal. Advocate Dinesh Ulepady appeared for the acquitted persons.

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first published:October 23, 2021, 17:09 IST