Kurien was at guest house, says Suryanelli sex scandal accused

Thiruvananthapuram, Feb 11 (IANS) Spelling fresh trouble for Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman P.J. Kurien, an accused who served a jail sentence in the 17-year-old Suryanelli sex scandal case has said that Kurien was present at the guest house where the victim was exploited.

"Kurien, in fact, travelled in my ambassador car to the Kumily guest house. Why would I tell a lie?" Dharmarajan told a TV channel at an undisclosed location in Mysore.

He added that the then investigation official and present State Information Commissioner Siby Mathew had prevailed upon him not to name Kurien in the case.

A lawyer by profession, Dharmarajan was the only accused convicted by the Kerala High Court in 2005 while it cleared 34 others earlier held guilty by a special court that conducted trial in the case in the late 1990s.

After serving a brief jail term, Dharmarajan was freed on bail but never returned to jail. His whereabouts were unknown till he made this revelation to a TV channel here.

He also said that he would surrender in the next few days.

"He could have said all this in the court. But now he says this to escape punishment in the case," Mathew responded to the fresh allegations made by Dharmarajan.

The sex scandal took place at Suryanelli in Idukki district January 1996. A 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 victim's father said: "We are happy that this has come out. Till now, we were branded as liars by all."

The case was back in the spotlight after the Supreme Court ordered a retrial in the case Jan 31 while setting aside the acquittal in 2005 by the Kerala High Court of all but one of the 35 accused.

The issue also rocked the Kerala assembly Monday when the opposition Left demanded that a case be registered against Justice (retd.) R. Basant, who was caught on video speaking ill about the victim's character in a sting operation by a TV news channel here.

"We want Basant's name be removed from the panel list of Kerala government's counsel in the Supreme Court," said Kodiyeri Balakrishnan of the CPI-M and demanded a discussion on the issue.

Basant was one of the two judges of the Kerala High Court bench that let off all but Dharmarajan in the case in 2005.

Responding to the opposition's demand, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said: "Both your previous governments did nothing (in the case) and you (Achuthanandan) went to the extent of appointing one of the judges (who cleared the accused) to the post of a chairman."

"You are trying to politicise this. But we will only take action as per the law. One thing I can assure you of is that Basant will not represent Kerala in the Suryanelli case."

Dissatisfied by the chief minister's reply, Achuthanandan mentioned the Dharmarajan's disclosure against Kurien. He said the Congress government was only trying to save the accused in the case and led the entire opposition out of the house.

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