Thiruvananthapuram: In a new turn in the Suryanelli gangrape issue, the lone convict in the case on Monday alleged that Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman P J Kurien was involved in it as claimed by the victim.
Dharmarajan, the convict who is absconding after obtaining bail, told a television channel that the principal investigator in the case had pressured him not to mention about Kurien's alleged involvement in the case.
Kurien, however, rubbished Dharmarajan's claim holding that the statement of an accused after conviction has no legal validity.
"I took Kurien in my Ambassador car to the Kumali Guest house (on the day the girl alleged she was molested).... Why should I lie on that.... I am ready to swear by my deceased father," he told Mathrubhumi News from an undisclosed place in Karnataka where he is said to be hiding.
Dharmarajan, who alone was convicted by the High Court in 2005 while acquitting 35 others in the case, alleged that former ADGP Sibi Mathews, who headed the SIT, insisted that he should not name Kurien in the case.
At the same time, Superintendent Joshua, another member of SIT, wanted him to mention Kurien's name.
Dharmarjan, who was charged with taking the girl to several places for 40 days between January and February in 1996 and sentenced to five years by the High Court, recalled that Kurien was spared the identification parade conducted as part of investigations.
Rejecting Dharmarajan's allegation, Sibi Mathews said he was trying to "create confusion" and wondered how he did not tell these things in the court during the trial.
Reacting to the charge, Kurien told reporters at Pathanamthitta, "This is a settled position of the Supreme Court (that the statement of an accused after conviction has no legal validity).
"Secondly, every accused gets a chance to make a statement before the judge. He did not say this at that time. You (mediapersons) find out why he is making this claim now."
Students, legislators demand reinvestigation of rape charges against Kurien
Students and legislators took to the streets in Kerala and faced the brunt of water cannons on Monday, as they demanded the state government to reopen the investigation against Deputy Chairman of Rajya Sabha Pallath Joseph Kurien, who is accused of sexual assault in a 17 year-old case.
The victim of the 1996 case wrote to Kerala state chief Oommen Chandy, accusing Kurien as one of her tormentors and sought reinvestigation of Kurien's role in the case in wake of an apex Court order.
Recently, the apex court set aside the judgment of the Kerala High Court in the case, which had acquitted all but one of the 36 suspects.
The protesters, which included members of the Student Federation of India (SFI) and legislators, shouted slogans outside the state assembly, only to be dispersed by the police water cannon.
"We are demanding that the new information is coming out so the government must re-investigate the case. That is our demand. But the government is handling is situation politically and they are using police. They are using police on the agitating youth and the agitating women," said V S Sunil Kumar, legislator for the Communist Party of India (CPI).
Kurien had alleged on Tuesday (February 05) that the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) had raised the issue to gain political mileage in the upcoming polls.
The deputy chairman claimed that he was acquitted in three inquires and by the Supreme Court six years ago.
The victim, a native of Suryanelli in Idukki district, was abducted and raped by different people for around 40 days.
LDF walk-out over ex-Judge's comments
Controversial comments by former Kerala High Court judge R Basant about Suryanelli gangrape case today echoed in the state Assembly with the government rejecting LDF demand for registering a criminal case against him following which the Opposition staged a walk out.
Responding to the opposition's notice for an adjournment motion on the issue, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said the Government did not agree with the views of Justice Basant as telecast by a channel which had recorded him speaking on a hidden camera.
Basant, one of the judges who acquitted 35 accused in the Suryanelli case in 2005, had said on Saturday that "there was ample evidence to show the girl was used for child prostitution, which is not rape", sparking protests across the state.
The controversy surfaced at a time when the Left and women's organisations have been demanding the removal of Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairperson P J Kurien, also allegedly involved in the 17-year old case, after the victim recently wanted her lawyer to explore possibility of seeking a fresh probe against the Congress leader.
Raising the issue in the House, Kodiyeri Balakrishnan of CPI(M) wanted the government to book Basant under the relevant provisions of the recently promulgated ordinance providing for harsher punishments in cases of offences against women.
He also wanted the government to remove Basant, now practising in the Supreme Court, from the panel of senior advocates of the state.
He also demanded that the Advocate General initiate contempt of court proceedings against the former judge since some of his comments amounted to questioning the January 31 Supreme Court verdict, which set aside the high court order acquitting 35 accused and directed a re-trial in the case.
Chandy said the government was not a party to the comments made by Basant and he did not agree with them.
Charging the LDF with trying to politicise the issue, he said the Government could act only within the purview of the law in these matters.
Leader of the Opposition V S Achuthanandan dubbed Basant's comments as deplorable and trooped his colleagues out of the House protesting the government's reluctance to take a case against the retired judge.
Congress distances itself from Chacko's remarks
Congress today distanced itself from its spokesperson P C Chacko's remarks that the party will take a decision on the demand for removal of Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman P J Kurien, facing controversy over an old rape case, before the Budget Session of Parliament.
"Whatever Chacko has said is his personal opinion," party spokesperson Sandip Dikshit said a day after Kurien's colleague from Kerala, Chacko said the party will take a decision on his removal before the Budget Session.
A party leader speaking separately on the condition of anonymity, however, said that with new facts emerging like one of the accused now claiming Kurien was indeed involved in the case, his continuance as Deputy Chairman of the upper house appeared to become untenable.
At AICC briefing, Dikshit, however, said "let us see when the House runs" when asked whether there is any possibility of Kurien stepping down before the Budget Session begins.
Kurien was acquitted in the 1996 in the case but the gang-rape victim recently named him as one of those who assaulted her in 1996. The Suryanelli rape survivor sent a letter to the Supreme Court last week, asking for a review of the apex court's order quashing all charges against Kurien.
Amidst growing calls for Kurien's removal Chacko had yesterday said the party will take a decision before the Budget Session.
Asked how can this be a personal opinion if it comes from an official spokesperson, Dikshit sought to wriggle out saying, "We can have our personal views as well as that of a spokesperson."
Downplaying the controversy, he said it is an "old case".
"Some new facts have come out. Let the court decide. Some new appeal has been made. They have said that there is a need to have a re-look into the case...Whatever decision has to come, is to come from the court and the state government."
He also reminded that Kurien was cleared by Kerala High Court in the case long back. "As of today he is not convicted. As of now he is cleared by the court. There is no question of the issue of morality when no one is convicted."