KOZHIKODE, Kerala: Ever since news broke of the Koodathayi serial murder case a few days ago, many Malayalis have been glued to TV channels, captivated by each new twist and turn in the sensational story. While reporters have been seeking the views of everyone from distant relatives of the Ponnamattom family to retired police officers to people who may have met prime suspect Jollyamma Joseph in passing, a prominent name now associated with the case is that of criminal lawyer B.A. Aloor, a notorious figure in the state for his propensity to represent the accused in controversial cases.
Biju Anthony Aloor, a Mumbai-based Malayali, who proudly declares that he has a “professional approach” towards ‘criminals’ because “they too deserve a defence”, turned his attention to the Koodathayi case the previous week. Landing up uninvited at the Kozhikode rural Superintendent of Police’s office, Aloor seems to have convinced Jolly Joseph to take on his legal aid. On October 10, Joseph filed a petition before a judicial first-class magistrate, requesting that she be permitted to hire Aloor and his associates to defend her.
While Jolly’s family denied approaching the lawyer, anyone who has followed Aloor’s legal career would not be surprised by his sudden appearance at the scene of a controversial crime. In 2011, he became a hate figure in Kerala when he said he would represent Govindachami, who was convicted of pushing a 23-year-old woman out of a moving train and raping her. She died of her injuries. In 2016, he announced he would defend Ameer ul-Islam, accused of raping and stabbing to death a 30-year-old woman in her own home.
Aloor was also briefly the lawyer for Pulsar Suni, the prime accused in the 2016 actress abduction case, before he backed out of the case. That’s not all—he represented the prime suspects in the murder of rationalist Narendra Dabholkar. His entry into the District and Sessions Court of Shivajinagar in 2014, accompanied by bouncers, had made headlines.
Though he is considered publicity-crazy, Aloor told HuffPost India that his case choices are not whimsical. As per his “professional philosophy”, one becomes a criminal lawyer with “an aim to defend a murder case”.
“Why should anyone become a criminal lawyer if they do not want to represent all aspects of the life of a criminal including murder, dacoity and rape? If one is not prepared to represent these aspects, its better for one to opt for family court law,” Aloor said, adding that “everybody has the legal right to defend their case”.
Aloor went on to say that Jolly Joseph has no public support and that she is being treated as a culprit and not an accused.
“When a Bishop allegedly raped a nun in Kerala, there were people to support the accused man. How did they decide in that case that he did not commit the crime? In this case too, Jolly is only an accused and not a culprit. It is the court which should decide whether she is the culprit,” he said.
The police, he claims, has no “clinching evidence”, and the prosecution will fail miserably.
“Now they can only manufacture the evidence. I request the police establishment not to indulge in malpractice to prove the accused guilty,” he argued.
Aloor, who claims that Jolly Joseph has a right under section 303 of CrPC and Article 20 of the Indian Constitution to defend her case, is also hoping that the police may have to close the case for lack of evidence under the provisions of 169 CrPC.
“As this is a sensational case, the police will try their best to aid the prosecution’s case but the court will be able to see through the lack of evidence,” said Aloor.
The Kerala police, however, has been claiming that they have evidence and confessions to support their case. Jolly Joseph and the other two accused, M.S. Mathew, a jeweller and Prajikumar, a goldsmith, are currently in police custody.
But will Aloor be able to defend the case better than other defence lawyers? His colleagues, including prominent criminal lawyers in Kerala, do not think highly of his professional standards.
“He had tried to appear for a number of cases where the accused themselves decided not to take his services. His track record is poor,” a lawyer said on condition of anonymity.
In 2016, Aloor did get the Kerala High Court’s death sentence ruling for Govindachami commuted to life imprisonment when the case reached the Supreme Court on an appeal. While his colleagues at the bar council maintain that the sentence was commuted because of flaws in the prosecution’s case, Aloor told HuffPost India that he had presented a “good defence” after “charging a hefty amount as fees”.
In Kerala’s legal circles, it is a running joke that Aloor’s second “high-profile’’ client, Ameer ul-Islam, was awarded a death sentence because of poor defense. “In courts, he does not command respect,” claimed a lawyer.
Besides, Aloor has fallen out of the High Court’s good graces, sources said.
“As he had made a negative remark about a judge in the Principal session’s court which had tried Ameer ul-Islam’s case, the court has lodged a contempt case against him. The Kerala High Court too has taken cognisance of this case,” an advocate alleged. Aloor, however, claimed ignorance of any such case.
While it may be too early to say what advocate Aloor may be able to do for Jolly Joseph, he may be her only shot at a defence as her family also has washed its hands off her.