Ariyalur rape case: Kin of victim say justice elusive

The verdict has shocked the family members of the victim who expressed their displeasure with the investigation and verdict sentencing the main accused, a Hindu Munnani functionary, to a life term.
The girl’s rape and murder shocked the state when her body was found bound and dumped in a well on January 14, 2017.
The girl’s rape and murder shocked the state when her body was found bound and dumped in a well on January 14, 2017.

ARIYALUR: Seven years after the rape and murder of a 16-year-old pregnant Dalit girl from Ariyalur, only one of the four accused was convicted for rape and murder by the district Fast Track Mahila Court last month.

The verdict has shocked the family members of the victim who expressed their displeasure with the investigation and verdict sentencing the main accused, a Hindu Munnani functionary, to a life term. The family told TNIE they would file an appeal in the Madras High Court.

The girl’s rape and murder shocked the state when her body was found bound and dumped in a well on January 14, 2017. Her family had reported her missing two weeks earlier but alleged that police had not immediately registered a case. On January 15, 2017, police arrested the main accused, aged 24 at the time, and three of his friends under the POCSO Act and other sections.

Police said the girl, belong to the Paraiyar community (SC), had been in love with the main accused, who hailed from the neighbouring village, and belongs to the Vanniyar community (MBC). He raped her multiple times and promised to marry her. When she became pregnant and demanded he marry her, he refused on the basis of her caste.

It was alleged that on December 29, 2016, the youth kidnapped the girl, sexually assaulted and murdered her with the help of a 28-year-old youth, tied her hands with her innerwear and rope, weighted the body with a stone, and disposed of it in a well. His other two friends were accused of helping him destroy evidence.

After protests were held alleging lack of proper investigation in the case, it was transferred to the CB-CID and a special public prosecutor, S Abiraman, was appointed to try the case. The trial began in July 2019.

However, the verdict delivered by the trial court judge D Selvam in April 2024 only convicted the main accused under Sections 364, 302 and 201 of the IPC, Section 10 of the POCSO Act 10, and Sections 3(1) (w) (i) of the SC/ST Act. While sentencing him to life and a fine of Rs 52,000, the judge acquitted the other three citing lack of evidence. The court also asked the state to pay Rs 5 lakh to the victim’s family. The verdict said the names of the accused should be withheld from publication.

“Justice has been denied. This conspiracy could not have been planned by only one person. The court should have awarded at least 10 years in jail to the three who were acquitted. The main culprit should have been given the death penalty,” the victim’s 31-year-old sister told TNIE.

The victim’s mother said she had been depressed and unable to work after her daughter’s death. “I waited for justice... but it has been denied. After the acquittal of three people, my faith has been shattered. Till my death, I will fight for the courts to punish the three acquitted.”

Speaking to TNIE, Abiraman claimed the prosecution had established its case well. “We proved the motive, rape, murder, when she was last seen, stressed her case identity and age as a minor and we had the extra-judicial confessions. We have argued that this case is among the rarest of rare cases,” he said. The investigating officer of the case, AG Inigo Thivyan, ADSP of DVAC, claimed that the police had done its best. Ariyalur SP S Selvaraj said an appeal would be filed against the verdict.

CPM state secretary K Balakrishnan, who had led several protests demanding justice in the case, maintained that the probe was not properly done. “What can the victims do if we have to fight from the beginning. This is reprehensible,” he said.

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