Kerala POCSO Court permits reinvestigation of controversial Walayar rape case

In its verdict cancelling the POCSO Court verdict, the HC termed the initial police investigation and the prosecution’s efforts as ineffective
Kerala POCSO Court permits reinvestigation of controversial Walayar rape case

Palakkad POCSO Court has given permission to reinvestigate the controversial death of two sisters in Walayar. Earlier, Kerala High Court had cancelled the verdict of the lower court, citing systemic failures from the police and prosecution, and had noted that a request for reinvestigation could be moved.

In its verdict cancelling the POCSO Court verdict, the HC 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.

Following public outcry, the Kerala government had formed a new investigation team under the leadership of Railway SP R Nishanthini and they had requested for the reinvestigation, citing its necessity. Meanwhile, there has been a public demand, especially from the parents of the two girls, for the CBI investigation into the matter, mainly because the Kerala police have been accused of tampering with the original investigation.

The PK Haneefa Judicial Commission — that probed into the suspected deaths of two Dalit sisters in Walayar — also recommended actions against the police and public prosecutors. On Wednesday, the Kerala Assembly tabled a report on the Commission’s findings detailing the failings of the investigative officers and the prosecutors. The report indicated that as the commission found “glaring lapses in the Walayar investigation by the then Sub Inspector PC Chacko”, appropriate action will be taken against the officer proportional to the gravity of the lapses.

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.

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 for botching the investigation.

The commission said that Chacko had failed to do his duty properly in terms of the investigation and further actions to preserve the life of the younger girl. It also pointed out that the failure of the officer in protecting the younger girl after her sister’s death, despite knowledge of threats against her, was “unjustifiable and unpardonable”

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