Twenty four prominent figures from various fields are protesting for justice in the Palathayi child abuse case in Kerala, in which the accused, BJP leader K Padmarajan, recently got bail from a court in Thalassery. This includes writers, activists and social workers. Writers K Satchidanandan, Sarah Joseph, Kalpetta Narayanan, CS Chandrika, activists BRP Bhasker, K Ajitha, M Sulfath, Sheethal Syam, Deedi Damodaran, and social workers like Dr P Geetha.
They are protesting by observing a fast in their respective homes on July 26.
Padmarajan was accused of sexually harassing a girl in Class IV studying in a school in Palathayi in Kannur district, where he worked as a teacher. There was statewide criticism when the accused was given bail, and after the sections of POCSO (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences) were removed from the charge-sheet.
The protestors want S Sreejith, Inspector General of Police, Crime Branch, to step down from the investigation. A few days ago, an audio clip purportedly of the IG speaking about the case to a youth over the phone, cropped up on social media and the police official has been further criticised for his laxity. In the call, the voice alleged to be Sreejithâ€™s can be heard justifying the removal of POCSO sections and blames it on contradictory statements from the girl regarding the dates of the assault.
â€śThe protest is for justice for the survivor. He (Sreejith) had a role to play in all of this. It is a grim contrast that the accused in this case is allowed to go while there was such hurry in charging two young men (Alan and Thaha) with the UAPA (Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act),â€ť says renowned poet Satchidanandan.
The mother of the survivor has now approached the High Court with a plea to cancel the bail of Padmarajan. She said in her plea that despite there being clear statements of the survivor and medico-legal examination certificates, the police have submitted the charge-sheet by removing the POCSO sections to help the accused get bail.
Justice will come to the survivor only if Sreejith is removed from the case, says activist Ajitha. â€śRecently two women police officers have been given charge of the investigation but theyâ€™d still be working under him. Already enough manipulations have been done on the case,â€ť says Ajitha.
The case was originally registered under sections 376 AB (punishment for rape on women), 376 (2) (f), 354 (assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty) of the Indian Penal Code and sections of the POCSO Act. The survivor - a girl of 10 years - had given her statement to the Panoor police, alleging sexual harassment including rape, on more than one occasion by the accused. The child and her mother had also approached Child Line authorities. Following this, the accused Padmarajan was arrested on April 16. However, the investigation was transferred from the local police to a special investigation team under CBCID (Crime Branch-Criminal Investigation Department).
The CBCID filed the final report before the court on July 14, with charges under sections 323, 324 of the IPC (punishment for voluntarily causing hurt) and sections 75 and 82 of the Juvenile Justice Act -- alleging physical and mental assault by the accused, by beating the survivor on various occasions.
A petition was then filed by public prosecutor BP Saseendran and special prosecutor, POCSO, Beena Kaliyath before the Thalassery court, for further investigation of the case.
It alleges that the present investigation agency did not get the victim's statement after taking over the investigation. â€śIt is absolutely necessary when they say there is contradictory statement from her. Moreover, Sec 26(4) of the POCSO Act warrants recordings of the statement of child by electronic means of audio or video,â€ť the petition says.
The court, on hearing the petition, ordered further investigation of the case.
"But further investigation will not do. What we need is re-investigation. It should start from scratch, only then can we have effective legal intervention. Otherwise it would be an injustice to all the girls in the state. The two girls in the Walayar rape case have died but here we have a survivor. The society has to protect her," says Ajitha, who is the founder of Anweshi, an NGO for womenâ€™s rights.