The Supreme Court on Thursday set aside the order of the Kerala High Court by which it had acquitted 35 accused in the Suryanelli gangrape case of 1996.
A Bench comprising Justice A K Patnaik and Justice Gyan Sudha Misra sent the matter back to the High Court for a fresh consideration and give its verdict within six months.
Terming the High Court verdict most surprising, the apex court also directed that the accused should seek fresh bail and wanted them to surrender before the court within three weeks.
A special court in Kottayam on September 2, 2000, had convicted 35 persons while acquitting four others in the case. One of the accused had died during the trial.However, the High Court on January 20, 2005, acquitted the 35 accused giving them the benefit of doubt.
It had found only one person guilty of a crime related to the sex trade and had sentenced him to five years in jail and a fine of `50,000.
The state government then moved the apex court on May 12, 2005, challenging this acquittal.
It averred before the apex court that the approach of the High Court was “erroneous and unsustainable”.
The girl from Suryanelli in Idukki district was abducted in January 1996 and was taken to various parts of the state for 40 days during which she was raped by 42 men.
According to the prosecution, the girl was persuaded to run away from her school hostel in Munnar on January 16, 1996.
When she was standing at Kottayam bus stand, she was approached by one Dharmarajan. On the pretext of helping her, he took her to a lodge room and raped her.
Later, she was kept in confinement by Dharmarajan and the other accused for 40 days and was presented to different persons.
The girl’s father lodged a complaint with the police on January 17 and an FIR was registered.
The girl was brought to Muvattupuzha bus stand on February 26 and set free.
She then went to her father’s office where she narrated the entire episode. The next day she was taken to the police station.
On June 25, 1996, the state government transferred the matter to a Special Investigation Team and all the accused were arrested.
In December 1998, the govt constituted a special court and the case was transferred to the Sessions Judge, Kottayam.