With the sole convict in the 17-year-old Suryanelli gang rape case naming him as a fellow-perpetrator, Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairperson P.J. Kurien is beginning to feel the heat, with a now-united Opposition demanding his resignation.
On Tuesday, Mr. Kurien shot off a letter to Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Chairman of the Upper House Hamid Ansari giving his side of the story.
Party sources said he had given an account of the judgments of various courts which had “exonerated” him in the case.
This comes in the wake of Dharmarajan, the convict who is absconding after obtaining bail, telling a television channel that the principal investigator in the case had pressured him not to mention Mr. Kurien’s alleged involvement in the case.
Mr. Kurien, on his part, had denied Dharmarajan’s claim stressing that the statement of an accused after conviction had no legal validity. “This is the settled position of the Supreme Court [that the statement of an accused after conviction has no legal validity],” he told journalists. He also pointed out that every accused gets a chance to make a statement before the judge, and in this case, Dharmarajan had not said anything at that time.
The Congress’ official position on Tuesday was that Mr. Kurien had been exonerated, and that in the last 17 years, the Left Front — which is spearheading the agitation against him in Kerala currently — had been in power twice and had ample opportunity to prove him guilty, if there had been a case against him. A senior party functionary said the party would wait till Parliament started and look for a resolution through a meeting of floor leaders.
On Sunday though, Mr. Kurien’s colleague from Kerala and Congress spokesperson P.C. Chacko said the party would take a decision on the demand for Mr. Kurien’s removal as Deputy Chairperson before the commencement of the budget session.
A day later, the Congress distanced itself from Mr. Chacko’s remarks. “Whatever Chacko has said is his opinion,” party spokesperson Sandip Dikshit had said. This was reiterated on Tuesday.
The BJP too, faced with pressure from its party unit in Kerala, joined the ranks of those demanding Mr. Kurien’s resignation.
Earlier, the BJP’s central leadership had been reluctant to endorse the demand made by its Kerala unit as senior party leader Arun Jaitley had been one of Mr. Kurien’s lawyers in the case.