The Kerala High Court on Tuesday directed the state police chief to form a new Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe the Palathayi child abuse case, pertaining to the alleged sexual assualt of a 10-year-old girl by her school teacher. Notably, the court has also directed that S Sreejith, Inspector General of Police in the Crime Branch, should not be part of the new team.
The case pertains to the alleged sexual assault on a Class 4 girl in Kannur district. Her teacher K Padmarajan, who is also a BJP leader, is the accused. After the case was handed over to the Crime Branch team led by S Sreejith, charges against the accused under Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) and Indian Penal Code (IPC) were dropped, with investigation officials saying that they needed more time to probe into the charges. Many activists had come out against this move.
Reportedly, the present direction of the HC comes after a petition filed by the mother of the child alleging that she suspects political influence to sabotage the case. Responding to the plea, the court had also said that the newly formed SIT should not include the present members. It has also directed that an officer not below the rank of Inspector General of Police be appointed to monitor the investigation.
The accused Padmarajan is the president of BJPâ€™s Thrippangottur local committee near Palathayi in Kannur. He was granted bail last July after the Crime Branch submitted a partial chargesheet in the case and told the court that it needs more time to probe the case.
In the initial case registered by the Kannur police, the accused was charged with Section 376 (Punishment for rape) of the IPC and Section 5 (Aggravated penetrative sexual assault) and Section 6 (Punishment for aggravated penetrative sexual assault) of the POCSO Act. But these were dropped after the Crime Branch took over the investigation, despite the medical examination also reportedly revealing that the child was sexually assaulted.
In the chargesheet submitted by the Crime Branch, the accused was only booked under Sections 323 (Punishment for voluntarily causing hurt), 324 (Voluntarily causing hurt by dangerous weapons or means) of the IPC and Sections 75 (Punishment for cruelty to child) and 82 (Corporal punishment) of the Juvenile Justice Act.
In July, many prominent Kerala activists and writers held a protest demanding the resignation of IG Sreejith.