A fresh hearing in the 1996 Suryanelli rape case is to begin today in the Kerala High Court. A new bench, comprising Justices KT Shankaran and ML Joseph Francis will begin hearing the bail pleas filed by nine of the accused.
Earlier, the special bench, constituted to hear cases relating to crimes against women, was to hear the case. Justice T R Ramachandran Nair, who was heading the earlier bench, had recused himself from the case as he had appeared for one of the accused. Following this a new bench was created.
The case relates to the rape of a 16-year-old girl of Suryanelli in Idukki district in 1996. The victim, a school girl, was allegedly abducted and taken to various places and sexually exploited by different persons.
The Supreme Court in January set aside a Kerala High Court order from 2005, which acquitted 34 of 35 men accused of raping her. The Supreme Court asked for a retrial and a verdict within six months. The victim reiterated the allegation that among the powerful men who allegedly raped her in 1996 was PJ Kurien, Congress leader and the Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha.
Then again on February 22, the victim had filed a police complaint against Mr Kurien, listing him as an accused in the case along with three others.