A court In India’s southern Kerala state has sentenced 10 men to life imprisonment for killing a low caste Dalit Christian for marrying a higher caste woman.
The court in Kerala’s Kottayam district also fined each of the convicted men £456 for killing Kevin Joseph, a 23-year old electrician, in May last year, three days after he married Neenu Chacko, 20, an upper-class Christian, much against her family’s wishes.
The judges said they did not give death sentences to some of the accused because of their age and as it was their first offence.
The convicted men include the widowed bride’s brother, who is believed to have returned home to Kottayam from his job in the Gulf to take part in the murder.
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The court heard how Mrs Chacko’s father had allegedly hired assassins with the help of his son, three relatives and some local politicians to murder Joseph for marrying his daughter without his consent.
The couple met in 2016 at a bus stop in Kotayam, while on their way to a local college, where Joseph worked as an electrician and Mrs Chacko was a postgraduate student studying geology.
Two years later they married in May 2018, despite fierce opposition from Mrs Chacko’s father and family, and two days later a gang of men hired by the bride’s brother abducted the groom and a friend.
The friend was later released after being roughed up, but Joseph’s body was fished out of a local canal. The court was later told that the autopsy report confirmed that he had been "forcibly drowned".
During the trial the bride claimed her father had warned her and Joseph that they pursued their ‘unequal’ relationship at their peril but they defied him and got married.
The bride’s father has been acquitted due to lack of evidence.
Joseph’s father, meanwhile, said that while he was satisfied with the life sentence handed down to the guilty, he would continue the legal fight against Mrs Chacko’s father.
“Chacko is still outside (jail), but should have been imprisoned as well,” Joseph told the Indian Express newspaper earlier this week.
So-called "honour killings" of females by their male family members is not uncommon across most of India but is extremely rare in Kerala.
The state has India’s highest literacy rate, of over 93 per cent, and is widely acknowledged as more socially advanced than the rest of the country, with marginal inter-caste and inter-community tensions.