Thiruvnanthapuram: Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Thursday claimed the death penalty given to  Ameer Ul Islam, a labourer from Assam for the rape and murder of a 30-year-old Dalit law student, was a recognition of the LDF government's uncompromising stand on the safety of women.

Pinarayi Vijayan said the government gave priority to the probe and ensured that the maximum punishment was given to the man. "It was because of that, the first Cabinet meeting of the LDF government took a decision to set up a special investigation team (SIT) to probe the case," he said. The SIT was given clear instructions to work impartially, without being influenced, he said in a statement.

The statement was released to the media after a Kochi court today sentenced to death the 22-year-old labourer for the rape and murder of the law student in Kerala last year. The court drew a parallel with the 2012 Nirbhaya case in Delhi, where a 23-year-old paramedic student was brutally assaulted in a moving bus by five men and a juvenile. The Kerala law student was murdered on April 28, last year before the May 2016 assembly elections in the state. The court held that the brutal acts of the convict, Muhammed Ameerul Islam, definitely fit this case within the umbrella of "rarest of rare cases on par with the Nirbhaya case in Delhi".

The incident had rocked Kerala in the midst of the campaign for assembly polls last year, with opposition parties attacking the then Congress-led UDF government for alleged "tardy" probe and "failure" to nab the culprit swiftly. Vijayan said the SIT rose to the expectations of the LDF government and it was due to that the probe, which was groping in the dark during the previous UDF rule, succeeded. The message was clear that the government would not allow anybody to escape after committing crime, he said. The incident had turned into a political weapon, with the LDF, then in opposition, accused the UDF government of failing to ensure the safety of women. It also triggered statewide outrage and protests.

Today, opposition leader in the state Assembly Ramesh Chennithala hailed the verdict and said it was the evidences collected by the investigation team appointed by the previous UDF government that ensured maximum punishment to the accused. The LDF had then unleashed a campaign that the UDF had sabotaged the case, he pointed out. "All that has been proved wrong with the court verdict," he said. PTI