The Congress on Tuesday appeared to be in a Catch-22 situation with regard to allegations against Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman P J Kurien in the Suryanelli gang-rape case. In the absence of a court case against Kurien or any formal investigation report implicating him, the party is not in a position to ask him to step down -voluntarily or otherwise. In fact, sources in the party claimed that if any action was taken against Kurien at this juncture, it would be tantamount to challenging the Supreme Court’s clean chit to him. In view of absconding-after-bail convict S S Dharmarajan’s startling revelations implicating him, Kurien said it is a settled position of the SC that the statement of an accused after conviction has no legal validity.
Dharmarajan, a lawyer, was the only person to be convicted among the 35 men tried in the case. He has alleged that he was pressured by then investigating officer Sibi Mathews not to take Kurien’s name and said he had driven Kurien to a guest house in Kumili, where the girl was kept in confinement and raped. Rubbishing Dharmarajan’s claim -- his revelations to a TV channel came on Monday from an undisclosed location in Mysore -- Kurien said the accused ‘gets a chance to make a statement before the judge. He did not say this at that time. The media must find out why he is saying this now’.
But with the BJP central leadership changing its stand on the issue under pressure from its local unit, which travelled to Delhi on Tuesday, the Congress is worried that the situation may get out of hand and cause embarrassment to the party in Parliament, especially if he has to preside over the Upper House.
The Congress tried to pass the buck to the Kerala administration asking it to investigate the fresh allegations and the Rajya Sabha Chairman to take a final call on his Parliamentary status in consultation with all political parties in the Upper House.
“It is not a party matter - there is an RS Chairman and House Committee. On the investigations, it is only the state government that can follow it up,” a senior Congress general secretary said, turning the Kurien issue into headache of the parliamentary committee rather than party.
The BJP on Tuesday upped the ante saying that Kurien has to ‘step down till he is absolved of the charges against him’. Its Kerala unit has been persistently demanding Kurien’s resignation.
The central BJP had earlier said that the law should take its own course in the matter. One reason for the central BJP’s ambivalence, sources said, was that Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley had been Kurien’s lawyer in the Suryanelli case.