Opposition disrupts House proceedings

The Opposition Left Democratic Front (LDF) disrupted the proceedings of the State Assembly on Monday when Chief Minister Oommen Chandy rejected its demand for “continued investigation” into the charges of the involvement of Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman P.J. Kurien in the Suryanelli sex scandal.

The Chief Minister categorically told the House that a government could not act according to whatever the people said. “This is a subject [sexual assault] that is being discussed all over India. Those who commit crime should be brought before the law… At the same time, it is not correct to crucify the innocent. It is not possible for a government to do everything that the people say,” he said.

The disruptive incidents — Opposition members waving placards and shouting slogans in the well of the House and some even climbing up the Speaker’s podium — took place after the deputy leader of the Opposition Kodiyeri Balakrishnan had moved a notice for adjourning the listed proceedings of the House to discuss the Suryanelli case.

Mr. Balakrishnan put the legal position, according to the Opposition, as such: There were several Supreme Court judgments stating that in a case involving the charges of rape, the victim’s version was sufficient to include a person in the list of the accused. The girl had reiterated her charges against Mr. Kurien once again. When she made the accusation first in a private petition before the court at Peerumedu, Prof. Kurien got it discharged by the High Court. In the Supreme Court, the High Court verdict had prevailed on the ground that, in the interim, the High Court had dismissed the rape case against 34 other persons, who were actually included in the list of the accused.

Mr. Balakrishnan noted that the latest Supreme Court verdict had reopened the case before the High Court against the 34 persons who were acquitted earlier. This meant that the ground on which Prof. . Kurien had obtained a favourable verdict in the Supreme Court had collapsed. He said the allegation against Prof. Kurien, who was left out of the original list of the accused “despite the victim’s version,” should be, therefore, subjected to “continued investigation.” He said Advocate General K.P. Dandapani, who had appeared as Prof. Kurien’s lawyer in the High Court earlier, and Director General of Prosecution T. Asaf Ali, who was a Congress leader, should be asked to step down from their respective positions during the time of the “continued investigation.”

Dismissing the demand, Minister for Home Thiruvananchoor Radhakrishnan said the case [against Mr. Kurien] had been legally closed at the Supreme Court level and none had the authority to reopen it. Prof. Kurien had gone through four stages of [the test to ascertain] the suspicions against him and had cleared his name from the scandal. There had been two police verifications of the allegation, including one instituted by a government led by the Left Democratic Front (LDF), besides the legal stages at the High Court and the Supreme Court against the plea for implicating him in the case.

He said the Supreme Court verdict in his favour had come on November 16, 2007 and it was pertinent to note that even the previous Achuthanandan government had not taken the matter any further.

At this stage, several Opposition members, led by women, congregated by the side of the Speaker’s podium and started shouting slogans, prompting Speaker G. Karthikeyan to adjourn the House for some time. When the House reassembled and the Speaker tried to take up other matters listed for the day after disallowing permission to move the adjournment motion, Leader of the Opposition V.S. Achuthanandan said the government was acting against the spirit of the ordinance against sexual assault, which the President had signed this Sunday. “The version of the victim should receive priority,” he said.

The Chief Minister responded by stating that the government could act only according to the law and would not buckle to pressure, prompting the Opposition members to intensify their demonstration in the House. Some of them climbed onto the Speaker’s podium. When members of the watch-and-ward made a rush to create a cordon around him, the Speaker curtly ordered them back to their positions, defusing the situation.

Congress legislative party secretary Benny Behnan later wrote to the Speaker demanding action against LDF MLAs R. Rajesh, V. Sivankutty, Babu M. Palissessy and James Mathew for their style of demonstration.