The Kerala government has agreed to handover the Walayar case to the Central Bureau of Investigation after the parents’ plea for a CBI investigation into their daughters’ death.
The government’s move came after the parents met Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. The Chief Minister issued a directive to the Additional Chief Secretary to handover the case to the central agency.
Meanwhile, the parents welcomed the government’s move to handover the case to the CBI but, added that others involved in aiding the accused to escape conviction, must also be taken to task.
Last week, the Kerala High Court cancelled the POCSO court verdict freeing the four accused in the rape-murder of two minor Dalit girls in Walayar, Palakkad district. The HC also ordered a retrial and it has asked all accused to surrender before the trial court on January 20.
While considering the appeals filed by the children’s mother and the state government, a division bench comprising Justices A Hariprasad and MR Anita gave the prosecution the liberty to seek further investigation into the case. On October 25, 2019, a Special POCSO Court had acquitted four persons — V Madhu, M Madhu, Shibu, and Pradeep Kumar — citing lack of evidence. However, in a suspected suicide, accused Pradeep was found hanging in his house on November 4, 2020.
After cancelling the POCSO court’s verdict on the Walayar rape case, the HC came down heavily on the local police and the prosecution.
The High Court termed the initial police investigation as ineffective, “debilitating the DySP’s efforts to effectually reinvestigate the case”. “A lack of efficient investigation by an officer is embarrassing to the entire state police force. The government must make sure that their police officers can professionally handle such cases. Serious lapses in the investigation of such high profile cases can create contempt for the state government,” the HC observed.
Moreover, the High Court also said that the POCSO judge failed in efficiently handling the trial. The report added that proper training must be given to POCSO judges so that such instances don’t happen in the future. The HC was hearing an appeal filed by the state and the parents of the deceased girls against the acquittal. The High Court ordered a retrial in the case and asked the prosecution to approach the trial court with the reinvestigation request.
Addressing the Court’s statements, Kerala Opposition Leader Ramesh Chennithala said that he welcomed the HC’s decision. “The Court’s criticism is embarrassing to the entire Kerala police force. The Chief Minister had promised in the assembly that the case won’t be subverted, and yet the police and the prosecution failed to do their jobs properly,” he said.
Regarding the possibility of a reinvestigation, the Walayar action council and the girls’ parents said that the state police should not handle it. They want the Central Bureau of Investigation to take up the probe as well as to take action against the officers who botched the original investigation.
In 2017, the two minor Dalit sisters were found hanging in their hut in Walayar. The 13-year-old elder sister was found on January 13, following which the nine-year-old younger girl had testified that she saw her sister’s attackers. The younger girl was found dead on March 4 in a similar fashion.
The original probe did not pursue murder, but rather a case of unnatural death and they tried to push the suicide argument.
The case began to pick up traction following the younger sister’s death and the post mortem report claiming sexual assault. Much before that, the autopsy report of the 13-year-old had stated that the girl died by hanging, and added that while there were no genital injuries, the “anal orifice appeared stretched with multiple mucosal erosions…” The police, having ignored this fact, had to follow through when the conditions repeated in the case of the younger girl.
After further postmortem report indicating multiple cases of sexual assault on the girls, with the younger one’s report indicating vaginal penetration as well, the police added more sections to the investigation. After days of work, the investigating officers arrested five people — V Madhu, M Madhu, Shibu, Pradeep Kumar, and a juvenile. However, the Court acquitted the accused due to lack of evidence, since the prosecution’s side was filled with hearsays, inconclusive, and circumstantial evidence. The parents of the victims, action councils, activists, and opposition parties had blamed the police of botching the investigation.