Kurien should quit

The Suryanelli sex scandal has received much public attention since the Supreme Court quashed the Kerala high court’s judgment in the case last month. The high court had exonerated 34 accused in the case, and convicted only one, in the case where a school girl had been kept in custody and sexually abused for many days by over 40 persons.

 While the high court is set to review the case, the demand to reinvestigate the alleged role of Rajya Sabha vice-chairman P J Kurien has become stronger in the last few weeks. Kurien’s name had figured in the scandal when it became public but he was cleared after investigations. The matter had gone up to the Supreme Court but Kurien got a clean chit.

The rape victim had named Kurien in the beginning and is even now sticking to her charge. She is now planning to move the court demanding a fresh investigation. There are charges that the investigation against him was not conducted fairly. A member of the investigating team has gone on record on this. Some recent revelations made by witnesses on the basis of whose statements Kurien was cleared have cast doubts on his alibis. There is the charge that their statements were not correctly recorded. The claim of the lone convict, who had gone into hiding but was recently captured, about Kurien’s involvement may not carry credibility, but the girl’s and witnesses’ statements should not be dismissed altogether. It is also true that the clearance Kurien got from courts was more technical than substantial. The bar on retrial of a person on the same charges may not be applicable in his case because he was never tried as an accused.
The Left parties, which are campaigning for a reinvestigation, and even a section of the Congress in Kerala which has indirectly supported the demand, may have a political axe to grind. Kurien’s claims and assertions of innocence need not be doubted. But it will well be in his own interest if his name is cleared after a fair and impartial investigation. Instead of rejecting it, he and the Congress leadership should actually welcome the demand. The leadership will have to face questions about propriety if, in the shadow of this charge, he presides over the Rajya Sabha when it discusses the ordinance on crimes against women.

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