The Supreme Court today sought response from the Kerala Government on a petition filed by 16 of the 24 convicts challenging their conviction and varying quantum of sentence in the Suryanelli gangrape case.
A bench comprising Justices S J Mukhopadhaya and P C Pant issued notice to the state government on the appeals against the Kerala High Court’s April 4 judgement upholding the verdict of the trial court.
The High Court had confirmed the life sentence of one convict and varying sentences awarded by the trial court at Kottayam, to other 23. Dharmarajan, who was awarded life term, has not yet approached the apex court.
There were 36 people who faced trial in the 18-year-old case, of which five died during the trial. Seven were acquitted. The case relates to a victim, who was a minor at the time and was taken to various places in Kerala and Tamil Nadu by the convicts, travelling about 3000 km during a 40-day ordeal when she was raped by over 40 persons, before being released on February 26, 1996.
The court awarded sentences varying from five to 13 years and imposed fines on the 23 convicts. Convicts Raju, a bus conductor in Idukki, and Usha were awarded 13 years rigorous jail term for procuring the minor girl and giving her to the other convicts.
The High Court had rejected the contentions of convicts touching on the character of the victim. Their contention that the girl did not make any attempt to escape from their custody was also turned down.