On Wednesday, 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.
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.