People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 07

February 17, 2013


On the Suryanelli Gang Rape Case in Kerala


Brinda Karat, former MP and Polit Bureau member of the CPI(Mt) met Dr Hamid Ansari, vice president of India and chairman of Rajya Sabha on February 8, 2013  and handed over a letter to him on the gang rape case in Kerala. Below is the full text of the letter.


I AM writing to you in connection with the charges made by the victim in a gang rape case in Kerala dating back to January 1996, against Prof PJ Kurien who now holds a constitutional post as the deputy chairman of the Rajya Sabha. I met the rape survivor recently and she informed me that in the light of the Supreme Court judgement which has vindicated her fight for justice, she has requested the Kerala government to reinvestigate her complaint against Kurien.


Prof Kurien has claimed that he has been “exonerated” in three investigations and also by the High Court and the Supreme Court. He has claimed that the Supreme Court judgement has nothing to do with him. The defence is most misleading.


There were two parallel cases filed in what has come to be called the Suryanelli gang rape case. The first was by the state against 40 men named in the FIR. The other was a private complaint by the victim directly to the court. She said she was constrained to do this since the police had refused to include the name of PJ Kurien in the list of the accused although she had identified him as one of her tormenters.


In the main petition, the Special Court in September 2000, held 35 men guilty of gang rape. All the accused appealed to the High Court and were released on bail.


In the private petition against PJ Kurien, the lower court held that there was prima facie evidence and that his name should be included. Kurien appealed to the High Court which did not grant him any relief and asked him to go back to the lower court. His appeal was heard by an Additional Sessions Court in 2006 which again rejected his petition and held that the allegations are clear, specific and unambiguous and that therefore the victim should be given a chance to prove her case.


Thus three courts had rejected PJ Kurien’s appeal to have his name excluded from the list of accused.


Meanwhile in the main petition, the appeal of the accused was upheld by a division bench of the High Court in 2005. All the accused were acquitted and it was stated that the 17 year old girl had consented to have sexual relations with all the 40 men. An appeal was filed against this by the state government in the Supreme Court.


It was mainly on the basis of this acquittal in the main petition that the case against PJ Kurien was rejected later by the High Court and also by the Supreme Court.


However following the Delhi gang rape case, the Supreme Court decided to fast track all cases of sexual assault which were pending before it. Thus after seven long years, the Kerala case was heard. The Supreme Court made a stinging indictment of the High Court judgement and rejected its reasoning of “consent” as totally flawed. The Supreme Court has ordered a reinvestigation by the Kerala High Court. In this context, the victim who has at last got justice from the Supreme Court has once again appealed to reinvestigate the case against Kurien. It is a different matter that the Kerala government headed by Prof Kurien’s party has refused to do so.


My appeal to you is to take steps to protect the dignity of the constitutional post of deputy chairman. In the light of the Supreme Court judgement for reinvestigation in the main petition, it is unthinkable that an individual accused in the case by the victim, can occupy the Chair until he is cleared by a reinvestigation.


In the forthcoming parliament session, the anti-sexual assault ordinance is also scheduled to be discussed. The status of India’s parliament will be irreparably damaged in the eyes of the world if such a discussion is permitted to be guided by a person who has been accused of involvement in a case of rape of a 17 year old. I am confident that you will do what is best in the interests of upholding the dignity of parliament.