THE BUDGET session has started and Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman PJ Kurien has held on to his chair. But the din against him in the Suryanelli rape case refuses to die in Kerala. Despite protests by the Left parties, the state government has refused to act on the victimâ€™s complaint that Kurien was among those who raped her. The victim, a native of Suryanelli in Idukki district, was a teenager in 1996 when she was abducted and raped by 42 men over 40 days.
The government has already informed the Kerala High Court that the victimâ€™s complaint is not legally sustainable, checking her move for a fresh investigation against Kurien in the rape case that allegedly took place at the Kumily Panchayat Rest House in Idukki district.
Director General of Prosecutions T Asif Ali also made a submission before the court that the Supreme Court had exonerated Kurien in 2007, the victim was silent all these years and there is no fresh evidence against Kurien.
But legal experts believe the legal noose canâ€™t be wished away. â€śIf everybody is equal before the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) and the IPC, Kurien canâ€™t escape an investigation or trial,â€ť says A Jayashanker, a lawyer who practices at the Kerala High Court. â€śThe Director General of Prosecutions, the police, the state government and the Center are well aware that under CrPC 166(A), the police should have registered a complaint against Kurien when the victim lodged her petition. The police could have also filed a complaint under CrPC 173(8) against Kurien when the victim filed a private complaint. Itâ€™s not ignorance of law but distortion that is helping Kurien evade trial.â€ť
Jayashanker believes the law is on the victimâ€™s side. Kurien had never faced a trial in the case. No court had acquitted him but only discharged him from the charges based on facts or lies presented before the court.
It was Chief Justice KG Balakrishnan and Justice RV Raveendran who delivered the single-line judgment that read, â€śThe Special Leave Petition is dismissedâ€ť, after the Kerala government filed a petition on 16 November 2007. Interestingly, it was none other than BJP leader and Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley who appeared on behalf of Kurien to get a favourable verdict.
MEANWHILE, WOMENâ€™S rights activists fighting for justice in the Suryanelli case believe that there are enough grounds to demand a fresh probe against Kurien. â€śDharmarajan, who was convicted in the case, has now confirmed that Kurien visited Kumily and met the girl when she was confined,â€ť says Suja Susan George, a Kottayam-based activist. â€śDSP KK Joshua, who probed the case, has revealed the then DGP Siby Mathews, who headed the SIT that later probed the case, had twisted facts to save Kurien. Even the alibis presented by those who said Kurien was in Thiruvalla, 160 km away from Kumily, when the rape happened, seem to be false. Donâ€™t you think that these are enough grounds to demand a fresh probe?â€ť
â€śThe Suryanelli rape victim has been fighting for justice for the past 17 years. Even now, she is being subjected to a sustained verbal assault. Her family is facing a similar fate,â€ť she says.
The 33-year-old victim is mulling her options in a bid to save her honour and get justice. â€śOne day, the world will realise that I was telling the truth,â€ť she says. â€śIâ€™m waiting to get a reply from the SPs of Idukki and Kottayam on my petition against Kurien. Then I would approach the court.â€ť
As the legal battle looms large, the Congress is wary of its political fallout. A section of the Congress leaders in the state feel that the Suryanelli episode will certainly harm the party in the 2014 Lok Sabha election. â€śIn the age of visual media, issues like rape can wreak havoc. To a great extent, the youth are influenced by instant opinions that are aired by the electronic media. Itâ€™s a dangerous trend,â€ť says a senior Congress leader. He hopes that the media will soon stumble upon new issues and put Suryanelli back in the cold storage.