The rape of a minor in Kerala and a DNA test that muddied the case

An 18-year-old student was arrested last year in a rape case but was released following a negative DNA test. However, seven months later, the case has no end in sight.
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It was in July 2021 that the family of a teenage girl living in Tennala in Kerala's Malappuram district found that she was pregnant. Soon, a POCSO case was filed and as the police questioned her, she named Sreenath, an 18-year-old from her school, as the culprit. However, seven months later, the case has stagnated — a DNA test proved Sreenath was not the person responsible for the pregnancy, but he has not been let off as the police insist that he had sexually assaulted her.

Sreenath was imprisoned for more than a month in July last year after he was accused of raping the minor teen. He and his family now regularly appear in the media alleging that he has been denied justice. Sreenath was granted bail in August after a DNA analysis proved that he had not been responsible for the pregnancy.

Sreenath and his family allege that he had been framed in the case and the test results had proven his innocence. Sreenath was named as the accused in the case after the survivor's statement identified him. The survivor also provided a closed statement to the magistrate.

Rajan, Sreenath’s father, told TNM that his son is experiencing severe mental health issues following the case. "Sreenath is still the only accused in this case. Police have not arrested anyone else. We have heard that they have been calling some others for questioning but they could not trace the real accused,” he said.  "Police used abusive language in front of us. He was taken to the station at night," he said.

"My son is going through severe depression. After bail, he has been called in twice by the police. We were trapped," he alleged.

Sreenath had alleged that he was assaulted mentally and physically after his arrest. He also claimed that he had experienced temporary hearing loss after a police officer slapped him. "I knew the [survivor] from the school. I don't know who is playing against me," Sreenath said, alleging the survivor's statement was false. He said he had no relationship with the survivor.

No other suspect, only Sreenath still on the list

The police’s decision to not file a B-report (a report saying no evidence found) has been slammed by a section of the media in Kerala. Police however insist that scientific evidence may have worked in Sreenath’s favour, however the girl’s testimony is enough evidence. Though police sources say they are now working on the assumption that the teen was assaulted by more than one person, the fact remains that no other suspect has been identified, and no chargesheet filed.

Speaking to TNM, a police officer who initially investigated the case said that Sreenath is definitely an accused in the case but there are others too. "The girl has a slight intellectual disability. We assumed that more than one person had abused the survivor. He was the one she recalled and named. We were not sure whether she was trying to protect somebody else," he said.

Though the police faced severe criticism for arresting Sreenath, Advocate Aisha P Jamal Special Public Prosecutor Majeri Court and Malappuram Child Welfare Committee Chairperson Shajesh Bhasker says one can’t find fault with the investigation as the survivor had named Sreenath in her statement.

"We cannot agree with the allegation that the police made a mistake. The inquiry is going in the right direction. The accused has to prove himself innocent before court. He cannot be acquitted just because the DNA test turned negative. The girl had given a statement against Sreenath," Shajeesh Bhasker told the media, giving a clean chit to the police.

Aisha P Jamal also told TNM that negative DNA results only prove that Sreenath is not responsible for the pregnancy. "After she gave a statement against him, it was found that they were acquaintances following which an arrest was made. Police also took measures to do a DNA analysis at the earliest and the results were out within 35 days," she said.

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