NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court (SC) on Thursday set aside the Kerala High Court verdict that had acquitted 35 of the accused in the infamous Suryanelli rape case involving a 16-year-old girl. The girl was allegedly abducted by a bus conductor and subsequently passed on to a couple involved in trafficking.
She was taken by them to several cities and town in the state and presented to “influential” people. She was stated to have been raped by as many as 42 men within 40 days during January-February 1996.
A special bench of the apex court, constituted to take up cases of atrocities against women comprising Justice AK Pattnaik and Justice Gyan Sudha Mishra referred the matter back to the high court for consideration and a decision within six months. The Supreme Court directive came in the wake of separate appeals filed by the victim as well as by the Kerala government and the All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA).
On Jan.3, Chief Justice Altamas Kabir had stated that the case, pending for the past seven years, should be taken up in three weeks.
The bench also expressed shock at the high court acquitting 35 of those convicted by the trial court on the grounds that they had consensual sex with the girl, who was a minor at that time.
Revelations by the girl, after being released by her captors who threatened her against disclosing the happenings, had sent shockwaves across the state with allegations of several influential people involved in the racket by the main accused Dharmarajan, an advocate and a woman.
A public outcry led to the case being sent for trial in 1999 before a special fast track court.
It found 35 of the accused guilty in the verdict delivered in September 2000.
Dharmarajan, the main accused, who was absconding at that time, was arrested later and sentenced to life imprisonment.
However, barely a fortnight after the special court verdict, the Kerala High Court granted bail to all the 35 and in 2005 acquitted them.
It also reduced the charges against Dharmarajan and the woman holding them guilty of only sex trade and sentenced to five years and a fine of Rs50,000.
The girl’s family filed an appeal in the Supreme Court in 2005.
Meanwhile, in February last year, the girl, who was given a job as a peon in a state government office was accused of embezzlement and suspended.