A unique verdict

KOTTAYAM, SEPT. 2. The Special Court and the district collectorate campus which houses it were crowded to the brim when the special judge, M. Sasidharan Nambiar, read out his land mark judgment in the sensational Suryanelli sex case on Saturday. And when the pronouncement of the judgement was over, it was disbelief all over, especially among the defendents. Many had believed that the very fact that there was a large number of dependents would weaken the case.

The first reaction of Mr. Siby Mathew, who led the special instigative team was "I am happy". "In recent years there has been a general tendency to trivialise atrocities against women as sex scandals. This is the answer to those who adhere to such notions, by our system," he said.

This was also a day to remember for the Special prosecutor, Mr. Sureshbabu Thomas, the assistant special prosecutor, Mr. C.S. Ajayan, and the prosecution aid, Ms. Anila George, who is involved in women issues.

This was for the first time a special court was being constituted for sexual abuse of minor girl. The trial which commenced on November 16, 1999 ended on August 18, 2000 - one of the longest trials in recent history. The trial of some of the accused went on for nearly a month.

The 14-day trial of the victim was held in-camera and according to prosecutors, every precaution was taken not to turn this exercise into a "second rape" - one of the most common allegations raised against court proceedings in rape case. The directive of the Supreme Court had come to the aid and the presence of the prosecution aid in empowering the victim to face the trial went a long way in this regard.

According to Ms Anila George, sensitive judgments like this are going to make a change in the general notion on the atrocities against women, daylights or for that matter, any disadvantaged person. the judgement would also be a timely morale booster for the women's movement in the state in their onward march and struggle, she said.

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