KOCHI: After a fresh hearing of appeals related to charges of rape and gang rape in the Suryanelli case, the Kerala high court on Friday found guilty 24 of the 36 accused it had acquitted nine years ago.
A special division bench comprising justices K T Sankaran and M L Joseph Francis held that the girl’s testimony was trustworthy and she was not a deviant. The court also rejected the argument that the girl was a child prostitute.
Setting aside a high court division bench’s mass acquittal in January 2005, the Supreme Court on January 31, 2013, had ordered a re-hearing in the first major sex racket case in Kerala while considering appeals filed by the state government.
The case relates to the kidnapping of a 16-year-old girl from her school hostel at Suryanelli in Idukki district on January 16, 1996 by first accused Raju, a bus conductor, after seducing her.
Raju handed over the girl to second accused Usha and advocate Dharmarajan and the girl was taken to various places in Kerala and Tamil Nadu for 40 days. During the 40-day period, she was presented to 41 men and raped 67 times, until she was released on February 26, 1996. She was transported for over 3,000km by the gang during the rapes.
After trial, a sessions court at Kottayam had convicted 36 of the accused to undergo prison sentences ranging from four to 13 years and had acquitted four people. In 2005, the high court had acquitted all the 36 accused from the charges of rape. But It found Dharmarajan guilty of procuring a minor girl.
On Friday, the special division bench of the high court found 15 of the accused guilty of rape and another six guilty of gang rape. The court also found first accused Raju, second accused Usha and advocate Dharmarajan, who raped the girl and acted as a procurer for several of the men who raped the girl, guilty. It acquitted seven of the accused.
Charges against the accused include rape, gang rape, kidnapping, criminal conspiracy, wrongfully concealing abducted person, selling and procuring minor girl.
The 15 accused found guilty of rape were sentenced to rigorous imprisonment for seven years and to pay a fine of Rs 10,000 each. The six accused found guilty of gang rape were sentenced to rigorous imprisonment for 10 years and to pay a fine of Rs 15,000 each.
Bus conductor Raju and Usha were sentenced to rigorous imprisonment for 10 years and to pay a fine of Rs 15,000 each. Sentence of life imprisonment awarded to Dharmarajan by the sessions court was upheld by the high court.
Upholding the life sentence given to Dharmarajan, the HC special bench said on Friday, “The appellant is an advocate. He stooped to the level of an adventurer in sex, trapped a minor girl and threw her to untold misery and hardship. The appellant does not deserve any sympathy.”
Director general of prosecution T Asaf Ali, who argued the case, said state government is planning to file appeals before the Supreme Court challenging the acquittals by the special bench.
……………..TNN | Apr 5, 2014, 02.00 AM IST