Former inspector general of police K. Lakshmana was sentenced to life imprisonment by a CBI court here on Thursday for killing Maoist leader A. Verghese in a fake encounter 40 years ago.
This is the first time a senior police officer has been convicted for life for killing a rebel in a fake encounter.
Soon after CBI judge S. Vijayakumar gave the verdict, Lakshmana (78) was sent to the Thiruvananthapuram central jail.
Verghese's brother A. Thomas said he was happy. "It is a lesson for those in khaki who take the law into their own hands," he said.
Former Maoist and activist K. Ajitha also described the verdict as a historic one. "It is an eye-opener. Though late, this will help many such aggrieved families get justice," she said.
The judgment, which comes at a time when the country faces a renewed and a vastly strengthened variety of Naxalism, stressed the dedication and care required to deal with such a threat.
The police shot dead Verghese, then a 28-year-old political activist, in the Tirunelli forests (in northern Wayanad district) in February 1970, and said he had been killed in a shootout.
But former head constable Ramachandran Nair, probably under the stress of a guilty conscience, revealed in 1998 that he had killed Verghese on the orders of his superiors, especially Lakshmana, who was then a deputy superintendent of police. Lakshmana was later inducted into the Indian Police Service.
After Nair's disclosure, A. Thomas moved the Kerala High Court seeking a CBI probe. The CBI prepared a charge-sheet against Nair, Lakshmana and P. Vijayan (83), who was the state's director general of police in the 1980s.
The court acquitted Vijayan for lack of evidence.
Nair died in 2006. Days before his death, he said he would like to be hanged for the crime he had committed.