Chandy softens stand on investigating Kurien in Suryanelli case as pressure mounts

The Congress led government of Kerala seemed to be softening its stand on re-investigating Rajyasabha deputy chairman PJ Kurien’s culpability in the infamous Suryanelli rape case even as pressure mounts.

Asked why the government was stonewalling requests for a new investigation into Kurien’s alleged role in the rape-saga, chief minister Oommen Chandy said: “Who has ruled out a re-investigation?”

Chandy’s statement comes two days after he categorically refused to give in to “popular sentiments” and order a reinvestigation into the Rajyasabha deputy chairman’s alleged role in the kidnapping and raping of a 16 year old girl over 40 days.

Responding to a motion by the opposition, Chandy had told the state assembly on Monday that it is difficult to order an inquiry into PJ Kurien’s alleged participation in the Suryanelli affair as he has “been let off by the Supreme Court” of India in the same case. He argued that the same person cannot be prosecuted for the same offence more than once.

However, since then, the government has found itself under mounting public pressure. Many have said that Kurien escaped scrutiny for his alleged role in the scandal through legal technicalities, rather than the merits of his arguments.

“Kurien has not been found to be innocent by a court through a trial,” noted commentator and political analyst BRP Bhaskar said. “He escaped a full-blown trial by appealing to the High Court and later to the Supreme Court,” he added.

“The High Court and the Supreme Court do not conduct a full-fledged trial including arguments by both sides, unlike a lower court. They only look at the evidence presented before the lower court, and decide the case,” he said.

Speaking at a press conference today, opposition leader VS Achuthanandan said new evidence has come to light that implicate Kurien.

“Kurien has said that he was at his friend’s house from 4 pm to 8 pm. But his friend’s wife has now said that Kurien came at 4 and left at 4:45 pm. Kurien’s bluff has been called. A BJP leader has said that his opinion was misrepresented by Kurien (in his favor).. Even the AICC has raised questions about whether the matter should not be re-examined or not,” he said.

The opposition has been holding protests, both inside and outside the state assembly, in an effort to get the government to order a re-investigation. The victim, who was given a government job by the previous Left Front government, made a request for re-including Kurien in the case after the Supreme Court last week ordered a retrial in the case.