Suryanelli rape victim's family relieved

Kottayam (Kerala) Jan 31 (IANS) In a judgment that brought relief to the family of the victim in the infamous Suryanelli rape case, the Supreme Court Thursday annulled the verdict of the Kerala High Court and ordered retrial of the case.

All 35 accused who were let free by the high court in 2005 have been directed to surrender before the court in three weeks.

The high court has been asked to see that the re-trial is completed in six months.

Speaking to the media here soon after the verdict, the father of the victim said: "God is great."

"We know that God's justice has been delivered through the judges of the apex court. My daughter would obviously be happy. Right now, she is in office," the woman's father told IANS.

The case came to be known as Suryanelli case as the victim, then 16 years old, hailed from Suryanelli, Idukki district.

The case dates back to January 1996, when the girl was threatened, abducted and abused by a bus conductor, and brutally raped and treated as a pleasure object for a period of 45 days by 42 men. She was then let off, asked to return home, given a small amount of money and threatened with dire consequences if she spoke of the crime.

Three years later, a case was registered. A year later, a special court sentenced 35 accused to rigorous imprisonment.

In 2005, the Kerala High Court acquitted all but one of those earlier convicted by the special court.

Soon afterwards, the parents of the victim approached the apex court. The case was listed last year, to be taken up this year.

The E.K. Nayanar government (1996-2001), came to the help of the hapless victim and offered her a job as a peon in the Kerala Sales Tax department.

The victim's mother said: "We had only God to support us as we pursued justice. Our friends and relatives deserted us when we decided to go to the apex court. We have now informed our daughter about the verdict. We alone know of the hardships we have faced since this ordeal began. My daughter has to work. After we die, she still has to have an income. Even though she gets no moral support from her office, she continues to work."

In February last, the woman, then 32, was arrested and suspended in what her family terms was a "false case" of financial misappropriation. When the media took up the issue, she was reinstated.

The family now lives in social isolation, ostracized by the local community. The victim continues to suffer serious health-related problems caused because of her 45-day ordeal 16 years ago.

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