A long and lonely battle for a woman who was raped by 42 different men over 40 days showed some results today. The Supreme Court over-ruled the verdict of the Kerala High Court which found just one man guilty. The Supreme Court has ordered the High Court to re-examine the evidence presented, and present its decision within six months.
The survivor, from Suryanelli in Kerala's Idukki district, was just 16 when a bus conductor used photographs of her to blackmail her. She was passed from one man to another and moved across the border to Tamil Nadu where she was eventually abandoned.
In 2005, the Kerala High Court acquitted 35 men who were suspects, and sentenced one to five years in jail. The court said she appeared to have been a willing participant, but the Supreme Court today said this observation was incorrect and based on an incomplete inquiry.
In December, 2005, an appeal against the High Court acquittal was filed in the Supreme Court by the woman and the Kerala government. Till this month, the case had not been heard even once, demonstrating how slow trials suggest that sexual offenders are rarely held accountable. Recently, the Chief Justice of India Altamas Kabir expressed his concern over the delay in hearing the case, and promised to fast-track it.