Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari today said his colleague and Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs Vayalar Ravi had apologised for his deeply offensive comments made to a woman journalist, when she asked him about the allegations against PJ Kurien in the Suryanelli rape case, and the matter should rest there.
Mr Tewari said the remark was unbecoming for someone working in the public sphere, but since Mr Ravi had apologised and withdrawn his words, the matter should be put to rest.
A woman journalist in Kerala had on Monday sought Mr Ravi's reaction on the demand for a re-investigation of Deputy Chairperson of Rajya Sabha PJ Kurien's role in the Suryanelli rape case. Vayalar Ravi responded with a personal swipe at the reporter, asking if she had a personal grudge against Mr Kurien.
"Do you have anything personal against PJ Kurien? I am sure you do. Has something happened between you and him in the past?" Mr Ravi had asked the woman journalist. The comments were caught on camera.
"Such a comment is not expected from anyone in the public sphere," Manish Tewari told women journalists at the Indian Women Press Corps in Delhi. "To the best of my knowledge, he has retracted the comments and expressed regret. Let us leave it there."
Commenting on the allegations against Mr Kurien, Mr Tewari said the matter is being sensationalised and the legal procedure would be followed.
The Suryanelli case gets its name from the place in Kerala's Idukki district from where the gang-rape survivor hailed. In January 1996, when she was 16, she was abducted and raped by 42 men over 40 days.
Last month, the Supreme Court ordered a retrial in the Kerala High Court, setting aside the acquittal in 2005 of all but one of the 35 accused.
The woman, now 32, and her family have consistently maintained that Congress leader PJ Kurien should stand trial in the case as he was among those who exploited her. They allege that Mr Kurien was shielded from the law because of his political influence.
Mr Kurien has denied the allegations and said that the Supreme Court has cleared him.