The revelations by S.S. Dharmarajan, an absconding convict in the Suryanelli rape case, to a Malayalam news channel on Monday has created fresh trouble for Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman P.J. Kurien.
Dharmarajan told a news channel that Mr. Kurien had visited the guest house in Kumily, where the victim had been kept in captivity. He said it was he who had brought Mr. Kurien to the guest house in his car. He also alleged in the interview that then investigation officer and present State Information Commissioner Siby Mathews had asked him not to reveal Mr. Kurien’s name.
A lawyer by profession, Dharmarajan was the sole accused convicted by the Kerala High Court in 2005. Dharmarajan was out on bail when the High Court reduced his sentence to five years. However he did not surrender before the police as required by law and has been on the run since then.
Meanwhile, legal experts are divided on the question whether a further investigation can be ordered on the basis of Dharmarajan’s statements.
High Court lawyer Thampan Thomas said the High Court could consider the question of further investigation if a petition was moved before it under section 482 of the Criminal Procedure Code or under Article 227 of the Constitution (writ jurisdiction).
‘No bar on re-probe’
He said since the Supreme Court had reopened the case, there was no bar on reinvestigating the alleged involvement of Mr. Kurien in the light of the disclosure made by Dharmarajan. An investigation was necessary to clear doubts on the involvement of the Deputy Chairman of Rajya Sabha.
The High Court had, in fact, issued the order exonerating him only on a petition filed by him seeking to discharge him from the case.
T.A.Shaji, senior High Court lawyer, opined that nothing prevented the police from conducting a further investigation Mr. Kurien’s involvement in the case.
The police could register an FIR and conduct a probe into the veracity of Dharmarajan’s statement and submit a report.
If the allegations made by Dharmarajan were found to be true, he could be listed as a witness and proceedings could be initiated against Mr. Kurien in the court.
There was no time bar on reinvestigating an offence, punishment for which is more than three years imprisonment. The trial court could then examine the reliability and credibility of Dharmarajan’s remarks.
Another High Court lawyer, Sunny Mathew, also said a further investigation could be ordered in view of the new disclosures made by the convict, considering his statements were new information. There was no legal bar on proceeding against Mr. Kurien on the basis of the new statements made by the convict.
However, B. Raman Pillai, senior High Court lawyer, said no investigation could be conducted on the basis of Dharmarajan’s remarks. The confession long after the trial and judgment did not have any validity.
He pointed out that Dharmarajan had not made any statement implicating Mr. Kurien in the case during the trial period or during cross examinations. A confession of the accused against co-accused could not be treated as evidence.
His new statement, therefore, did not have any legal validity, Mr. Pillai said.
High Court lawyer S. Sreekumar also said no credibility could be attached to the statement made by the convict after 16 years. Had he made the statement during the trial, the trial court could have examined him and made him an approver.
Meanwhile, All India Lawyers Union High Court Committee on Monday organised a meeting at the Kerala High Court in protest against the remarks made by former High Court Judge R. Basant.