On Sunday, Kollam Police Commissioner Merin Joseph IPS and her team left to Riyadh in Saudi Arabia. Merin was unsure of the procedures that would follow once she landed in Riyadh, but one thing she was sure of, she would return to India with Sunil Kumar Bhadran (38), a man wanted in a child rape case.
Sunil Kumar, a native of Kollam, was a tile worker in Saudi Arabia. In 2017, while he was holidaying in Kerala, he sexually assaulted his friend’s niece for three months.
The 13-year-old girl, who belonged to a scheduled caste community, was devastated and finally revealed her ordeal to her family. By the time the police issued a lookout notice, Sunil had fled to Saudi Arabia. The girl was later moved to Government Mahila Mandiram rescue home at Karicode in Kollam district. However, she killed herself in June 2017. Before this, the victim’s paternal uncle who had introduced Sunil Kumar to the family had also killed himself.
Merin, who took charge as the Kollam Commissioner in June 2019, had reviewed pending cases, with an emphasis on cases related to women and children.
“I found this case and got to know that this man was absconding for almost two years. This was a case that had impacted public conscience and people were outraged at the crime. The International Investigation Agency of the Kerala police had been following up with Saudi police, we just strengthened these efforts,” she explains.
Though an Interpol notice had been issued for Sunil Kumar in 2017, the case had never progressed. Many cases don’t progress though Interpol notices are issued, as it required continuous follow-up and co-operation from the other country involved.
In 2010, then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Saudi King Abdulla had signed the India- Saudi extradition treaty. Despite many Keralites who were wanted in cases in the state having fled to Saudi, no extradition has happened till now. A few days ago, the Kerala police was informed that Saudi police had Sunil in custody. Though most IPS officers would have sent junior officers to secure the man, Merin chose to go herself.
“This was the first time that we would be doing such an extradition. I wanted to learn how it works so that I could, in turn, share the knowledge with my team. There was a lot of paperwork, it involved the CBI and the Interpol too. We also had to make documents to bring him back. This is why I decided to go. I am also passionate about cases involving women and children, and this was a man I believed should be brought back to face trial," she told TNM.
Sunil Kumar Bhadran has now become the first person to be extradited for a crime committed in Kerala. And this, will perhaps pave the way for many more criminals seeking refuge in Saudi to be brought back.