Thiruvananthapuram, Feb. 11: The only man convicted in the Suryanelli sex scandal today claimed that Rajya Sabha deputy chairman P.J. Kurien, accused of rape by the victim, was present in the rest house where the alleged violation occurred on February 19, 1996.
Dharmarajan, whose life sentence was reduced to five years by Kerala High Court, told a channel that the Congress leader had travelled in his car to the rest house in Kumily panchayat.
“P.J. Kurien was with me. He came in my Ambassador car.... Why should I lie? I can swear in my late father’s name,” Dharmarajan, who fled parole and is said to be in hiding in Mysore, told Mathrubhumi News.
The victim, then a teenaged schoolgirl who was gang-raped by nearly three dozen men, has claimed that Kurien raped her in the rest house on February 19, 1996.
The girl, abducted and passed on as a sex slave for 40 days, also claimed that Kurien had come to the rest house with Dharmarajan and another accused, Jamal.
Kurien’s defence had been largely built around alibis who claimed he was at a place about two hours away from the rest house when the alleged violation took place.
Dharmarajan further said he had not revealed Kurien’s name under pressure from the investigating officer, inspector-general of police Sibi Mathews, now the state’s chief information commissioner. “Sibi Mathews asked me not to name Kurien,” he said.
He said K.K. Joshua, another member of the team investigating the scandal, wanted him to name Kurien and also wondered why Kurien had been spared the identification parade.
Mathews denied the allegation. He said Dharmarajan was trying to “create confusion” and asked why he had not said this in court during the trial.
Kurien adopted a similar line. “This is a settled position of the Supreme Court (that the statement of an accused after conviction has no legal validity),” PTI quoted him as saying in Pathanamthitta.
“Secondly, every accused gets a chance to make a statement before the judge. He did not say this at that time. You (media persons) find out why he is making this claim now.”
Nair Service Society general secretary G. Sukumaran Nair, who had said that Kurien was with him in Changanacherry — more than two hours’ drive from Kumily — about 8.30pm that day, also refused to budge from his stand.
The victim had claimed the abuse occurred around 7.30pm.
The trial court had convicted 35 men but the high court acquitted every one except Dharmarajan, though it reduced his life term to five years. Last month, the Supreme Court set aside all the acquittals and asked the high court to re-examine the evidence.
The BJP national leadership, which had so far avoided a tough line on the controversy, today said the issue was “serious” and it would seek details from the state unit.
Party spokesperson Prakash Javadekar said in New Delhi that an official response would be formulated by tomorrow.
The state unit has already hit the streets demanding Kurien’s resignation and a fresh probe.