24 convicted in Suryanelli rape case

24 convicted in Suryanelli rape case
A division bench of the Kerala High Court on Friday convicted 24 people in the controversial Suryanelli rape case after a fresh hearing was conducted on a recommendation from the Supreme Court.

The court confirmed the life sentence of the prime accused in the case, Dharmarajan, and awarded jail terms ranging between four and 10 years to the rest of the accused, who were earlier let off on a 2005 high court verdict. The bench comprising justices K L Sankaran and M L Joseph Francis conceded to the victim’s statement that the accused abused her despite attempts to escape. 

In 2000, a special court in Kottayam had convicted 35 people for various offences in the Suryanelli gang-rape case, and sentenced prime accused Dharmarajan to life imprisonment. 

Later, a Kerala High Court division bench acquitted all of the accused, except Dharmarajan, whose life term was commuted to five years’ imprisonment.

In January 2013, the Supreme Court reversed the high court verdict and recommended fresh hearing after considering appeals by the Kerala government and the victim. 

The Suryanelli gang-rape case became especially controversial after comments made by Justice R Basant, who was a part of the bench that acquitted all but Dharmarajan in the case. 

During a sting operation which was conducted by a news channel, he called the victim “deviant”, “not normal” and claimed that she was not held against her will leading to a controversy. There were widespread condemnation of the remark. 

The minor girl was abducted by Raju, a bus conductor, before she was handed over to other men by Usha. Both Raju and Usha have been sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment.

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