Kerala High Court sets aside aquittal in Walayar minors’ rape-murder case
A division bench of the Kerala High Court on Wednesday set aside the verdict of the Palakkad Special Court for Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act acquitting all the accused in the case relating to the death of two minor Dalit siblings in Walayar in Palakkad district in 2017.
The bench comprising Justices A Hariprasad and MA Anitha ordered a retrial in the case and directed the special court to hear it. The court also observed that the prosecution could move an application seeking further investigation in the case before the special court. It has also directed the accused to surrender before the trial court by January 20.
The court passed the judgment while hearing the appeals of the state government and mother questioning the special court verdict.
There are four accused in the case and one of them Pradeep Kumar had died by suicide last year. The court has also pulled up the investigating team, prosecutor and judge of the POCSO court.
The prosecution’s case is that the two minor girls had died by suicide due to repeated sexual harassment by the accused. The girls, aged 13 and nine, were found dead inside their home 52 days apart. The 13-year-old was found dead on January 13, 2017, and the younger child, aged nine, died 52 days later on March 4.
The case had seen many twists and turns since then. Last year the government had admitted in the high court that the case was not investigated properly and it was ready for a re-probe. The mother had also approached the high court for a court-monitored central agency probe.
In 2019 the POCSO court had set free four accused and passed strictures against the investigating team. But the police officer who headed the investigation was promoted later. There was enough indignation after the verdict and later the high court took up the case suo motu but proceedings were stalled again after the government announced a judicial commission.
Many lapses in the trial also came to the fore. A lawyer N Rajesh, who represented one of the accused in the case, was later appointed as the district child welfare committee president, a body aimed at protecting rights of children. During the trial, many witnesses turned hostile.
The ruling CPI(M) also faced criticism as some of the accused are reported to be party workers. The state women commission also failed to come to the rescue of parents due to political pressure, said activists who were helping parents, both labourers. The mother of the siblings had staged several rounds of protests seeking a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation.
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