Though the government counsel stressed that the accused must first surrender before the trial court before applying for bail, a Division Bench of the high court ruled that they can be let out on bail right now.
Justices KT Shankaran and ML Joseph Francis said that the accused will have to pay the fine that was imposed earlier by the trial court, and furnish a bond of Rs 50,000 besides two solvent sureties. Another bail condition is that none of the accused should try to intimidate the victim.
The accused sought bail after the Supreme Court set aside the 2005 order of the high court and ordered a re-look into the evidences presented by the prosecution in the 17-year-old case.
Back in 1996, a minor girl hailing from Suryanelli in Idukki district of Kerala was sexually abused by 42 men while she was confined by them for 40 days. The victim's statements to the police following her release from captivity led to the arrest of nearly all the rapists.
But investigators did not believe the victim when she told them that senior Congress leader PJ Kurien, currently the Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman, was among those who sexually exploited her in Feb 1996.
In 2002, the trial court sentenced a total of 36 accused to varying terms of rigorous imprisonment. Three years later, a two-judge bench of the high court acquitted all but one of the convicts.
A lawyer SS Dharmarajan was the only person to be found guilty on the charge of procuring a minor and selling her to others for the purposes of prostitution. Dharmarajan revealed recently that he had taken Kurien to the Kumily guest house wherein the victim was kept captive on the evening of Feb 19, 1996.
The lawyer said that he and the Congress leader travelled from Vandiperiyar to Kumily in his white Ambassador car on that day. Kurien was closeted for nearly 30 minutes with the victim and emerged from the guest house around 7 p.m, Dharmarajan averred.
However, Kurien claims to have spent that particular evening at the house of an acquaintance in Tiruvalla.