Kerala government seeks Left opinion on Suryanelli case

Thiruvananthapuram, Feb 13 (IANS) Faced with relentless demands from the Left opposition to reopen the 17-year-old Suryanelli sex case, the Kerala government has sought the opinion of the Left on how to proceed in the matter.

On Tuesday, Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman P.J. Kurien, also a senior Congressman from the state, who has been named in the case both by the family of the victim and the sole convict in the case, wrote to Congress president Sonia Gandhi citing court verdicts that had exonerated him.

Replying to the opposition's demand to reopen the case, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said the government will place the three legal opinions that the government got on this issue pn the table of the house.

"We request you to please take possession of the three legal opinions that we received, which clearly state that it is no longer possible to reopen this case and order a fresh investigation. Please read the legal opinions, give it to your legal experts, and see what further steps can be taken," Chandy said.

P. Sreeramakrishnan, the CPI-M legislator who moved the third motion seeking a discussion in the house on the Suryanelli sex case and the involvement of Kurien, alleged that the Chandy government was playing tricks, with the sole intention of saving Kurien from disgrace.

"You have now produced a legal opinion from the director general of prosecution, who is your own party member. This is just humbug," Sreeramakrishnan said.

State Home Minister Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan, replying to Sreeramakrishnan, said that apart from the opinion of Director-General of Prosecutions T. Asif Ali, who held that there was no need for a fresh probe, the government had also received the advice of the state law secretary.

"We then got a third opinion from Justice (retired) Padmanabhan Nair, who appeared for the state in the apex court last month in this case. He too has concluded that it is not possible to go through a fresh probe."

Radhakrishnan recalled that in 2005, K.P. Viswanathan, then the state's forest minister, had resigned after Justice Nair made remarks in the high court linking him to the sandalwood mafia.

"You should note that subsequently Viswanathan was exonerated by the apex court. So Justice Nair's opinion in the Suryanelli case cannot be seen as partial to the ruling dispensation. A state government can only proceed in accordance with law, and we are doing just that," Radhakrishnan said.

The state home minister reminded the Left opposition that they were free to approach the court in the matter.

The Suryanelli sex scandal gets its name from the place in Idukki district from where the victim hailed. In January 1996, a 16-year-old girl was threatened, abducted and abused by a bus conductor, and later taken from place to place for 45 days and subjected to sexual assault by 42 men.

The case returned to the limelight after the Supreme Court Jan 31 ordered a retrial in the high court, setting aside the acquittal in 2005 by the Kerala High Court of all but one of the 35 accused.

The victim, now 32 years old and an employee of the state government, and her family have consistently maintained that P.J. Kurien should stand trial in the case, as he was among the people who exploited the 16-year-old. They allege that he has been shielded from law because of his political influence.

The Left opposition and the BJP here have been demanding that the Kerala government should order a fresh probe against Kurien. However, the BJP at the centre has not endorsed the demands by the state unit since senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley was one of Kurien's lawyers in the case.

Kurien's wife Susan Kurien, in a letter to the media here, has claimed that on the day when the victim claims she was exploited by Kurien, he was actually having dinner with his wife.

"Those fighting for the rights of women must not forget that Kurien too has a family. People have been raising baseless, wild allegations against my husband," said Susan Kurien, who has two daughters and four grand-daughters.

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