In a huge relief to the parents of two girls who died in Walayar in Kerala, the Kerala High Court on Wednesday set aside a lower court order that acquitted the accused and has ordered a retrial into the case. The Kerala High Court bench of Justices A Hariprasad and MR Anita has ordered all the four accused in the case to appear before the trial court on January 20. Livelaw reported that the High Court has given the prosecution liberty to seek further investigation in the case.
The High Courtâs decision comes after the mother of the two girls, aged 13 and 9, who were found dead a few days apart in 2017, stated a campaign for justice. The High Court has asked the accused in the case to present before the trial court on January 20.
The elder daughter was found hanging on January 13, 2017, and the younger one was found hanging in the same shed, days later, on March 4. The younger one had testified seeing her sisterâs killers. Four accused â V Madhu, M Madu, Pradeep Kumar and a juvenile boy â were first arrested in the case.
In October 2019, the Palakkad Special Court had acquitted all the four accused in the case â V Madhu, M Madu, Pradeep Kumar and a juvenile boy. However, in November last year, Pradeep, the third accused in the case, was found dead at his residence in Alappuzha. Police suspect that he took his own life.
Subsequently, in the same year, the Kerala government had approached the High Court seeking to set aside the verdict given by the Palakkad special court. The government stated in court that the special court had acquitted the accused based on the oral testimony from the witnesses as key evidence. "The lower court seriously erred in disbelieving the eyewitness accounts of the parents of the victims and even disbelieved the testimony of the girlsâ mother,â the government wrote in its appeal.
âThe governmentâs first plea was to conduct a fresh probe. The division bench of the High Court has set aside the Palakkad POCSO courtâs verdict and has sent back the cases to the trial court for a retrial. The High Court has also pointed out crucial shortcomings on the part of the prosecutors and investigators of the case. The High Court has even listed out the lapses of the trial court,â said Advocate Nasar, who appeared for the government.
Notably, he also said that the High Court has directed the lower court that if a request for a re-investigation in the case is given by the investigation agency, the same should be granted. âThe court also directed that if the prosecutor in the case wants, the witnesses can again be examined in the court. Even new witnesses can be examined during the trial,â Advocate Nasar said.
The mother of the two girls had accused the police of incorrectly recording and manipulating her statement. She had alleged that two women police personnel posing as members of the Women's Cell of the Palakkad police, recorded her statement.
"The statement was taken without any direction from any of the senior officials or from the court. The statement was written by the police in a manner so as to portray the deaths as suicides. The mother told the police officials that her elder daughter was killed, but in the statement, it was written that she had died," Marson, who leads the Walayar Justice Forum, had told TNM.
A Judicial Commission appointed by the government submitted a report in April 2020 that there were lapses during the trial of the case. The High Court in March had ordered the arrest of the four acquitted accused persons in the case. This was on a plea filed by the government and the mother.