Suryanelli rape case: Lone convict Dharmarajan arrested from Karnataka

Suryanelli rape case: Lone convict Dharmarajan arrested from Karnataka
Thiruvananthapuram::  Dharmarajan, a lawyer and the only man convicted in the 1996 Suryanelli rape case, has been arrested in Karnataka and is being taken to neighbouring Kerala, where he will be produced in a Kottayam court.

He had been absconding since 2005, when he was convicted by the Kerala High Court, which had acquitted 34 others of the charge of raping a 16-year-old school girl belonging to Suryanelli in Kerala in 1996.

Among those that the woman has accused of assaulting her is Kerala Congress leader PJ Kurien, whose political career is now on the line. Mr Kurien, who is the Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, was not among the 35 men tried for the woman's rape by the High Court. In 2007, he was exonerated by the Supreme Court.

But, after the top court set aside the Kerala High Court's 2005 verdict last month, and ordered a retrial of the case within six months, the rape survivor has reiterated her allegation against Mr Kurien, saying the police did not investigate him long or hard enough because of his political clout.

Dharmarajan, who was sentenced to five years in prison and was granted bail after which he went underground, added to Mr Kurien's troubles this week when he told regional TV channel Mathrabhumi from an undisclosed location that he had driven the Congress leader to the guest-house where the gang-rape survivor alleges she was assaulted by Mr Kurien.

Dharmarajan alleged that he was pressured at the time by the Kerala Police not to testify against the Congressman.

With the woman's most recent allegations, has come a chorus of demands from political opponents that Mr Kurien must resign. The 71-year-old Congress leader has so far said that multiple police investigations have proved him innocent and so there is no need for him to quit. But, as he met party president Sonia Gandhi yesterday, reportedly to explain the charges of rape against him, speculation was rife that he could be asked to hand in his resignation.

In a week, Parliament meets for its budget session and one of the main points of discussion will be the new anti-rape laws introduced recently by the government. Many say that given the accusations against him, Mr Kurien cannot chair debates on the safety of women, a matter of national focus since December's fatal gang-rape of a student on a Delhi bus.

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