Suryanelli rape case: Key convict taken into custody

Suryanelli rape case convict SS Dharmarajan, who was absconding after being granted bail in 2005, has been arrested in Karnataka today.

BANGALORE: Suryanelli rape case convict SS Dharmarajan, who was absconding after being granted bail in 2005, has been arrested in Karnataka today. Dharmarajan made waves recently when he accused Congress leader P.J. Kurien in the case.

Dharamarajan, who is the third accused in the case, was arrested by a special team of the Kerala police from an undisclosed location in Karnataka and will be brought to the special court in Kottayam where he will be presented before the magistrate.

Dharmarajan, who served a jail sentence in the 17-year-old Suryanelli sex scandal case had on Monday said that the Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman 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. Dharmarajan also claimed that Kurien had been kept away from the identification parade.

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 in Thiruvananthapuram.

All the accused on bail were directed by the Supreme Court to secure fresh bail from the Kerala High Court. The Supreme Court also expressed shock over the findings of the Kerala HC that the victim was a willing partner.

Reacting to the uproar, Kurien earlier this month maintained his innocence and pointed out that the High Court and the Supreme court have exonerated him adding he finds it difficult to understand why is he being called a rapist.

Refusing to step down from his post, Kurien told India Today: "Why should I step down just because I face certain allegations? Who does not face allegations from Prime Minister onwards?"

Kurien rubbished all the allegations being levelled against him in connection with this case, and alleged that the CPI-M had raised it to gain political mileage in the upcoming polls as they had done in the past.

"There is political conspiracy from the left parties because parliament election is there and they can use it. When they first raised the allegations, it was 1996 elections, immediately before the elections. After the inquiry, they dropped it and again it was raised immediately before the 1999 elections as a private complaint," said Kurien.

Judge's references spark furore

A high court judge who was in the division bench that acquitted the accused in the Suryanelli sex slave case ignited an uproar after purportedly "covert" footage showed him deriding the victim who was a schoolgirl when she was abducted.

The 1996 case had faded from public memory but had burst back into the headlines after a recent Supreme Court verdict that set aside the acquittals and asked the high court to take a fresh look. The case has acquired a national profile in the wake of the upheaval over the Delhi gang rape and because the girl had named Kurien.

The footage shows Justice K. Basant, a former judge of Kerala High Court, speaking to a reporter from a Malayalam news channel, Indiavision. Basant has not denied the content of the footage but has questioned the telecast, saying he had no knowledge that the conversation was being recorded.

The former judge, whose face is sometimes not visible on the footage, is heard telling the reporter: "There is ample evidence to show that she (the victim) was used for child prostitution. Child prostitution is no rape. It is immoral.…"

Basant then made some comments that appeared to question why the girl, who was held in captivity and allegedly raped for 40 days by 36 people, did not seek help since she had contact with the outside world. He also raised questions if she was under captivity at all.

What is the Suryanelli sex case?

The horrific Suryanelli sex case occurred in Kerala's Idukki district January 1996, when a 16-year-old was threatened, abducted and abused by a bus conductor. She was sexually assaulted for 45 days by 42 men, and then threatened with dire consequences if she spoke of the incident, before being allowed to return home.

In repeated statements, the victim has claimed that Kurien was among the men who abused her 17 years ago.

The Supreme Court on January 31 ordered a retrial in the case, setting aside the acquittal in 2005 by the Kerala High Court of all but one of the 35 accused.

As the victim and her parents repeat that Kurien got away lightly, without being so much as named among the accused, thanks to his political clout, the Left has rushed to draw mileage from the accusations.

(With inputs from agencies)

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