Suryanelli gang-rape case returns to haunt PJ Kurien

Last Updated: Mon, Feb 04, 2013 17:48 hrs

The Kerala Assembly witnessed ruckus on Monday as the CPI-M-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) disrupted the proceedings over the Suryanelli gangrape case.

Opposition members demanded a fresh investigation into the case as the victim stated that Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman PJ Kurien had raped her.

State Home Minister Thiruvanchur Radhakrishnan rejected the LDF's adjournment notice on the matter during Zero Hour.

Radhakrishnan said the government could not agree to the demand of re-investigating the case as the Supreme Court had dismissed the complaint against Kurien.

The opposition members went to the Well of the House and raised slogans against the government.

Speaker G Karthikeyan adjourned the House for sometime following the protests.

Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy earlier rejected re-investigation into the Suryanelli gangrape case.

He said all allegations levelled against Kurien have been cleared by top courts, including the Supreme Court, of the country.

He called the attacks against Kurien as 'unfortunate'.

Chandy slammed the LDF for criticising Kurien on the matter and said "some are trying to trigger a controversy over a matter' that was raised 17 years ago.

"Spelling trouble for senior Congress leader and Deputy Chairman of Rajya Sabha P J Kurien, the Suryanelli rape victim and her parents have asserted that Kurien had raped her," The New India Express reported.

"The rape victim also sent a letter to her advocate requesting him to explore the possibilities of filing a review petition before the Supreme Court against its earlier order exonerating Kurien from the case," the report said.

The victim in her letter on Jan 29 said Kurien along with other accused in the case had raped her in Kumily panchayat guest house in Kerala.

The Supreme Court last week set aside order given by the Kerala High Court where it acquitted 35 accused in connection with the case.

The Suryanelli rape case is concerned with a 16-year-old girl who was raped by 42 men for 40 days in 1996 in the state.

Don't crucify innocent man: Chandy

Chief Minister Oommen Chandy Monday sought to protect the image of party colleague and Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman P.J Kurien as chaos reigned in the Kerala assembly over the apex court order on the Suryanelli sex case.

Chandy said wrong-doers should be brought to book, but those who are innocent should not be pilloried or crucified. The remarks came as the Left opposition stuck to its stance that the government should order reinvestigation of the Suryanelli sex case.

Meanwhile, the victim too has been asserting that Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman P.J. Kurien was among those who exploited her in 1996.

"You were the chief minister (2006-11) and you never did anything when the apex court exonerated Kurien. We know that none can go against the rule of law of the land and according to the rules, no appeal can be given. Hence we will not blame you," Chandy said, referring to leader of opposition in the house V.S. Achuthanandan.

Achuthanandan had earlier said that it was strange that it was only the day before, Sunday, when the president had signed an ordinance that states that the statement of the victim should be looked into.

"We cannot be party to what you are saying and your only objective is to save Kurien. Since you are not agreeing to a reinvestigation, we are boycotting the day's proceedings of the house," Achuthanandan said.

Soon, Speaker G. Karthikeyan rushed through the listed business of the day. In the meanwhile, four opposition legislators rushed to the dais of the speaker.

Earlier in the day, Kodiyeri Balakrishnan of the CPI-M sought leave for an adjournment motion seeking a re-investigation into the Suryanelli sex case after the victim wrote a letter to Chandy seeking the reopening of the case.

"The victim's letter, sent to Chandy Saturday, which was the same that she wrote to then chief minister A.K. Antony in 1996, states that she was exploited by a person called "Bhajji" at the Kumily guest house. Later, when a picture of that person appeared in a newspaper, she recognised "Bhajji" as P.J. Kurien. She says that this was pointed out by her to investigation officials, but they did not arraign Kurien as an accused," Balakrishnan said.

Replying to this, state Home Minister Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan said the moment Kurien's name came up in a private complaint of the victim, he sought legal recourse. "You should not forget that the apex court discharged Kurien in this private complaint Nov 16, 2007, when you, Balakrishnan, was home minister and Achuthanandan was chief minister. We all know you did not do anything because the laws do not allow for another appeal," Radhakrishnan said.

The opposition raised an uproar after this, and the speaker adjourned proceedings for an hour.

Ever since the Jan 31 apex court order of a re-trial of the case, setting aside the acquittal in 2005 by the Kerala High Court of all but one of the 35 accused, the Left opposition has been targeting the Congress government here over this case.

The Suryanelli case is named after the place where the victim hailed from, in the state's Idukki district. The crime occurred in January 1996 when the then 16-year-old was threatened, abducted, abused by a bus conductor, and brutally raped and treated as a pleasure object for 45 days by 42 men.

Kurien sees plot to tarnish his image

With his name being "dragged" into the Suryanelli gangrape case, Rajya Sabha deputy chairman PJ Kurien has said that he suspected his political foes, including some in the Congress were involved in the 'conspiracy' to malign him.   Kurien's name figured again in connection with the case after the victim wrote to her advocate in Delhi on January 29 to explore the possibility of filing a review petition, seeking a fresh probe against Kurien.

While maintaining that he is totally innocent, Kurien told Malayalam TV channels last evening there was a 'conspiracy' behind the renewed attempt to drag his name after he had been cleared by courts and the investigations found the charge against him baseless.

Kurien said he had been absolved of the charges by the Supreme Court after four teams of police officers under UDF and LDF governments investigated the case. "If there is any lapse in all these probes, you should ask the investigating officers," he said.

Kurien, a former minister and long-time MP, said while chief minister Oommen Chandy, the KPCC president and other Congress leaders have fully backed him, he had an "inference" that some persons in the party wanted to harm him as they thought his "prominent presence" was a threat to their prospects.

"I have some inferences about who are working against me. I am not disclosing who they are at this juncture. I may do so at a later stage," Kurien told a channel.

"I have never met the girl..If we ever met the misunderstandings could have been removed...I have only prayers for her," Kurien said.

Meanwhile, the victim faxed a letter to Chandy on Saturday, seeking a fresh probe against Kurien.

Chandy had strongly defended Kurien at a press meet and termed as 'unfortunate' the moves against Kurien after he had been discharged by courts.

Opposition leader VS Achuthanandan, who demanded the resignation of the Rajya Sabha deputy chairman, had also asked the chief minister to order re-investigation into the case.

Suryanelli sex case all the rage on TV

With six full-fledged 24X7 news channels and four other channels that beam news for long spells each day, the most sought-after topic these days on TV in Kerala is the infamous Suryanelli sex case.

TV discussions have been heated, ever since the apex court ordered a re-trial of the case Jan 31, setting aside the acquittal in 2005 by the Kerala High Court of all but one of the 35 accused.

The pitch of the discussions reached a crescendo when the name of Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman P.J. Kurien surfaced in reports after the victim and her parents alleged that Kurien was let off because he was a powerful Congressman, and a minister of state in the central government at the time when the Kerala High Court pronounced its judgment.

TV news channels have teams of staff members now constantly present near the residence of the victim near Kottayam. The victim and her parents frequently feature in TV debates on the issue.

“Yes, yes, Kurien exploited me. Despite the fact that I brought the matter to the notice of the police probe team, Kurien was not included in the list of accused. I don’t want to see him again. I wish to see him in court,” the victim stated on TV, her face masked.

The Suryanelli case is named after the place where the victim hailed from, in the state’s Idukki district.

The crime occurred January 1996 when the then 16-year-old was threatened, abducted, abused by a bus conductor, and brutally raped and treated as a pleasure object for a period of 45 days by 42 men.

Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy Saturday urged the media to refrain from linking Kurien to the Suryanelli sex scandal, saying he had been “exonerated by two previous state governments and the Supreme Court” from the charges.

The victim’s father, in a televised response to the chief minister’s statement, said he would prefer to die rather than hear such a thing from Chandy.

Kurien, who was in the state, had so far refrained from speaking on TV.

But Saturday night, in lengthy interviews to TV channels, he broke his silence: “Believe me, I have never ever seen this girl in all my life. I have no clue why she is saying this again and again. When my name first appeared in this case, I did two things — I filed a defamation case against the then government (while E.K. Nayanar was chief minister). I won that case, but I did not go ahead with it because Nayanar had passed away by then.

“The second thing I did was to seek legal recourse. The apex court exonerated me after dismissing all the arguments against me. What more should I do,” a peeved Kurien said.

Jumping into the fray, leader of opposition in the state assembly V.S. Achuthanandan has demanded that Kurien step down, in the wake of the accusation. Achuthanandan also slammed Siby Mathews, the then high-ranking police official who investigated the case, saying he was “playing a double role” in the case.

Incidentally, Achuthanandan, as chief minister in 2011, appointed Mathews as the state’s Chief Information Officer.

The victim Saturday evening faxed a letter to Chandy, requesting him to order a fresh probe into the case.

“We will now seek legal advice from the advocate general and the director general of prosecution on this aspect and then a decision would be taken,” said State Home Minister Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan to reporters at Kottayam Sunday.

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