Thiruvananthapuram, Feb 11: A lawyer who was convicted in the Suryanelli rape case has told a Malayalam news channel that PJ Kurien, the deputy chairman of the Rajya Sabha, remained closeted with the victim for nearly 30 minutes at the Kumily guest house on Feb 19, 1996.
In the interview with Mathrubhumi, SS Dharmarajan said that he and Kurien proceeded from Vandiperiyar to Kumily in his Ambassador car. Two other persons namely Unni and Jamal accompanied them in another car. The group reached the guest house around 6.30 p.m, Dharmarajan said. Kurien went inside and emerged half an hour later, he added.
Dharmarajan's version of events contradicts the one proffered by Kurien. The latter has all along claimed to have spent that evening at the house of an acquaintance. Incidentally, a few days ago the wife of Kurien's acquaintance revealed that the Congress leader left their home in Tiruvalla around 5.15 p.m on Feb 19, 1996.
Investigators had earlier exonerated Kurien, citing BSNL call records which supposedly substantiated his averment about being present in Tiruvalla till 8 p.m on that day.
Dharmarajan's revelation is significant because he was the third accused in the sensational case and a division bench of the Kerala High Court had held him guilty of procuring a minor girl and selling her for purposes of prostitution. Though the trial court awarded rigorous imprisonment to as many as 35 accused, the High Court acquitted all but one of them in Jan 2005. Even Dharmarajan's sentence was reduced to just five years.
However, the advocate jumped parole and police have been searching for him since then. In fact, Mathrubhumi contacted Dharmarajan while he was in Karnataka. He gave the interview from his hideout in Mysore and promised to surrender before the Kerala Police within two days.
Whether Dharmarajan will keep his word remains to be seen. Nevertheless, he has put a question mark on the probe that was carried out immediately after the victim complained of being sexually abused by 42 men over the course of 40 days back in 1996.
According to Dharmarajan, he was ready to provide details of Kurien's role in the case but the head of the investigation team asked him not to make any such disclosure. The lawyer's statement is a big headache for Siby Mathews, the current Information Commissioner of Kerala, as it seems to corroborate the victim's charge that the team led by him did not properly look into her complaint about Kurien.
Dharmarajan has pointed out how all the other persons named by the victim as her rapists were forced to take part in an identification parade and yet Kurien was surprisingly exempted from that.
Opposition parties in the state have been staging protests for the past few days, demanding Kurien's resignation in view of the serious allegations levelled by the victim against him. Last week, the CPI-M and other constituents of the Left Democratic Front forced two adjournments of the Kerala Assembly.
Now with the advocate making things more difficult for Kurien, it looks like the Congress high command will have to decide soon if he should be allowed to continue in the high post especially when the anti-rape bill is slated to come up for discussion in the Rajya Sabha during the Budget Session of Parliament.