Stop targeting Kurian in Suryanelli case: Chandy

Thiruvananthapuram, Feb 2 (IANS) Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy Saturday urged the media to refrain from linking Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman P.J. Kurien to the Suryanelli sex scandal, saying he has been "exonerated by two previous state governments and the Supreme Court" from the charges.

"It's most unfortunate that the media has targeted Kurian in the Suryanelli case. Kurian has been exonerated both by two previous Left governments in Kerala and the Supreme Court," Chandy told reporters at a press conference here.

The apex court Jan 31 cancelled a Kerala High Court verdict acquitting all but one of the accused in the 1996 Suryanelli sex scandal and ordered a re-trial in the case. The victim Friday indicated that she was considering the legal option of re-opening the case against Kurian.

"The victim said the same things about Kurian that she said 17 years ago," Chandy said.

"We did everything according to the rule of law and Kurian has been exonerated by the apex court. Raising this issue again is nothing but an attempt for political gain. This is really sad, especially the media targeting Kurian," he said.

The chief minister said the scandal took place when A.K. Antony was state chief minister, and a police team appointed by him had prepared a list of accused. But soon the Left government assumed office, a new probe was conducted under police officer Siby Mathews.

However, he said, after the new inquiry into the scandal, no new names were added to the list of accused.

He added that in the 17 years since the scandal took place, the Left government was in office for 10 years. When V.S. Achuthanandan headed the government from 2006-11 no progress was made in the case, Chandy claimed.

The Suryanelli case was 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.

A special court found 35 of the accused guilty but in 2005 the Kerala High Court acquitted all but one of the accused.

The victim then approached the apex court, which after a gap of eight years, annulled the high court verdict.

Although Siby Mathews has come out in defence of Kurian, his former colleague K.K. Joshua who was in the team that probed the case said that Mathews' probe had certain shortfalls.

"An identification parade to see if the victim recognised Kurian never took place. Moreover, only details that favoured Kurian were collected," Joshua said.

Reacting to Joshua's claims, Mathews said that special awards were given for the excellent work that the probe team did in the case and that "Joshua never said anything then and now he is saying all this."

Chandy also said that both Mathews and Joshua have been at loggerheads with each other for long.

Meanwhile, leader of the opposition V.S. Achuthanandan Saturday asked P.J. Kurian to step down as Rajya Sabha deputy chairman in the wake of statements from the victim.

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