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Posted on Feb 26, 09:17PM | IANS
New Delhi, Feb 26 : The government Tuesday came out in defence of Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman P.J. Kurien in the 1996 Suryanelli rape case with Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath asserting that inquiries had cleared him of charges.
The minister said the allegations against Kurien might be politically motivated.
"A section of media and some political members have sought to drag Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman Kurien into a rape case. It has emphatically been stated that he has never been an accused in the Suryanelli rape case," Kamal Nath said, making a statement in the Rajya Sabha -- the upper house of parliament.
As soon as the minister stood up to defend Kurien, Communist Party of India-Marxist member Sitaram Yechury said it would be unfair for the government to defend the deputy chairman since it would affect "independence of legislature".
The objection was overruled by Rajya Sabha Chairman M. Hamid Ansari, after which Kamal Nath gave details of the series of events and said it was proved that Kurien could not have been physically present at the place of the incident.
He said the allegations against Kurien appeared shortly before the 1996 Lok Sabha elections. He said the victim's father filed a petition demanding a Central Bureau of Investigation inquiry before the elections but never showed any interest in the petition after the polls.
"Either it was a genuine mistake on the part of the victim or she was being used by a political rival," Kamal Nath said.
The sex scandal took place in Suryanelli in Idukki district in January 1996, when a 16-year-old girl was threatened, abducted and abused by a bus conductor and later confined and sexually assaulted by 42 men for 45 days.
The case returned to spotlight after the Supreme Court ordered a retrial Jan 31 setting aside the acquittal in 2005 by the Kerala High Court of all but one of the 35 accused convicted by a special court.