Acquits seven accused, confirms jail terms awarded by the Kottayam Special Court to 23 others

A Division Bench of the Kerala High Court confirmed the life term awarded to prime accused Dharmarajan in the Suriyanelli rape case.

The Bench comprising Justice K.T. Sankaran and Justice M.L. Joseph Francis, however, acquitted seven accused and confirmed the jail sentences of varying periods awarded by the Kottayam Special Court to 23 others.

The case relates to abduction and sexual exploitation of a minor girl hailing from Suriyanelli in Idukki district by several persons in 1996.

The prosecution case was that the school girl was enticed, abducted and sexually exploited by a bus conductor on January 16, 1996. She was later handed over to two others, including the prime accused Dharmarajan. The girl was taken later by them to several places and, according to the prosecution, had been raped 67 times by 37 different people during 40 days from January 16, 1996, to February 26, 1996.

As many as 35 accused were sentenced to rigorous imprisonment for varying terms from 10 years to 13 years by the Kottayam Special Court on charges of rape, gangrape, and kidnapping.

However, the High Court had acquitted all the accused except Dharmarajan.

On an appeal by the State government, the Supreme Court had reversed the High Court verdict and asked it to consider afresh the appeals filed by the accused as it found that the evidence in the appeal had not been considered independently by the High Court. As the special court verdict has been restored in view of the Supreme Court verdict, the remaining 31 accused were granted bail by the High Court.

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