The Suryanelli sex case continues to evolve with the special team of the State police arresting S.S. Dharmarajan, the third accused and only convict in the case, from Sagar in Karnataka and Raju, the first accused who was acquitted.
While the special team arrested Dharmarajan after he gave an interview to a television channel from his hideout, Raju went on to add a new name to the list of suspects – Arun from Kottayam.
Raju told The Hindu over the phone: “I had given enough evidence from the beginning to prove that I was not involved in the case. The police took material evidence about the Panikkankudi-Adimali bus route (where he was employed as conductor on the day the girl left the school), but all these evidence seems to be destroyed. I will stick to my original stand that I was framed to protect others and I don’t have anything more to say now.” He has been asked to secure bail after the Supreme Court set aside the High Court order.
K. Ittoop, former Superintendent of Police, Crime Branch (Narcotic Wing) member of the team that probed the case initially, had earlier admitted that Raju was framed to make the charge sheet stand. Talking to The Hindu after addressing the media here on Wednesday, Mr. Ittoop said Raju and the second accused Usha were included so as to make the charge sheet valid before the court.
The high court, while acquitting 35 accused in the case, upheld the conviction of Dharmarajan on the grounds that there was enough evidence to prove that he used the girl for commercial sex work. For someone known as a vibrant leader of the Students Federation of India (SFI) at St. Dominic’s College, Kanjirappally and Government Law College, Thiruvananthapuram, Dharmarajan had a deep fall.
A day after he came out of hiding and gave a detailed interview to a television channel, the State police renewed warrant against him, which expired some time in 2010, and constituted special teams. A top officer in the police said more than one team was set on task to hunt him down.
In contrast, it took only a couple of phone calls for a reporter to track the “absconding” accused and talk to him in detail, where he broke the explosive news about taking Mr. Kurien to the Kumily Panchayat Guest House.
Nothing much about this man was available in the public domain till he was put behind the bars at Central Prison, Poojappura as convict number 6454 – sentenced for life imprisonment by the special court formed for trial of Suryanelli case where a minor girl was sexually abused by 42 persons in 40 days.
Dharmarajan was active in student politics in the 1980s and rose up to the post of general secretary of the Law College unit of SFI. Dharmarajan had enrolled as advocate at the Kanjirappally bar and practised till the case was registered in 1996. However, he went into hiding in 1999, even as the trial was on at the special court, only to be arrested by the police from a granite quarry in Karnataka in 2002.
He went missing again in October 2002, after he moved the high court against the special court verdict and did not appear before the police, as it was required, when the high court reduced his sentence to five years. Sources in the police said they kept looking for information about him at this residence at Chirakadavu in Kottayam and neighbourhood. S.S. Sinha, younger brother of Dharmarajan, had also called up a television channel, offering to talk. What he had to say was that a couple of other political leaders were also present along with Mr. Kurien, when he allegedly raped the girl. However, none in the police, even those who were part of the Suryanelli investigation team earlier, seemed to have taken him seriously.