Former Kerala minister faces heat over raunchy visuals

Thiruvananthapuram, June 27 (IANS) In the latest sex scandal to hit Kerala, a former minister is facing demands to quit as an opposition legislator after a TV channel aired visuals of him in bed with a woman.

Along with the visuals was a report that the woman had testified before the police that the legislator, Jose Thettayil, and his elder son Adarsh, had sexually exploited her not once, but repeatedly.

The police promptly registered a rape case under section 376 of the Indian Penal Code against the father and the son, while Thettayil came on TV news channels to say that he had known the woman for a long time but denied any wrongdoing. Thettayil was last heard and seen on Sunday, following which he has vanished as the crime is a non-bailable offence.

Not to lose any opportunity to hit back at the opposition, angry student, youth and other activists belonging to the Congress-led United Democratic Front staged protest marches to Thettayil's locked home at Angamaly, 240 km from state capital Thiruvananthapuram.

But surprisingly the much-anticipated emergency meeting of the Left Democratic Front earlier this week failed to take up this issue. Its convenor Vaikom Viswan said the issue was never discussed as it was believed that the police were probing the incident.

With Thettayil's Janata Dal-Secular deciding that he need not resign and giving him complete moral and political support, the focus is on whether he would be arrested. If he is, he would write himself into the record books as the first sitting legislator to be put behind bars in a sex case in Kerala.

There was also speculation on whether Thettayil would take the moral high ground and quit as a legislator but so far, it hasn't come to that.

On Wednesdqay, the Congress -led United Democratic Front was yet to make its stand clear on what Thettayil should do. The only thing Chief Minister Oommen Chandy has said is that morality cannot be taught but has to be decided by every individual.

In all this, what has come as a shock for many is that, according to the police, the visuals were taped by the woman herself with a hidden camera she had placed in her apartment. The reason she did it, she said, was because the father and son duo had cheated her after initially agreeing that the son would marry her.

According to the police, the incident took place last year and the woman had kept the visuals with her for many months. When the father and son ditched her she approached the police with a 15-page complaint and the CD containing the visuals.

The episode has now become the focal point of discussion, with leading women's organisations baying for Thettayil.

"Oh this is too much. Honestly, it has come to the stage that TV news has to undergo some sort of censorship. This ugly episode was aired many a time by the news channels and we had to switch off the TV on many occasions," complained a housewife, who did not wish to be identified, to IANS.

This is the fourth major sex scndal to have emerged in Kerala in recent years. The others:

* The Kozhikode ice cream parlour case: A 16-year-old case in which the name of Industries Minister P.K. Kunhalikutty, who was cleared by the Supreme Court in 2006, keeps popping up now and again, thanks to Leader of Opposition V.S. Achuthanandan, who has been doggedly pursuing it.

* The Abhaya Case: Abhaya, a nun, was found dead in her convent at Kottayam in 1992. The first arrests were made Nov 19, 2008, by the 13th team of CBI officers that probed the case. The arrested include two Christian priests and a nun, who got bail in January 2009.

* The Suryanelli case: This scandal occurred at Suryanelli in Idukki district in January 1996 when the then 16-year-old was threatened, abducted and abused by a bus conductor and was later confined and sexually assaulted for 45 days by 42 men. The case returned to the spotlight after the Supreme Court ordered a retrial on Jan 31 while setting aside the acquittal in 2005 by the Kerala High Court of all but one of the 35 accused convicted by a special court. All the accused are now on bail and are waiting for the retrial to begin.

(Sanu George can be contacted at sanu.g@ians.in)

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