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Published in the 16-31 March 2005 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Kunjalikutty absolved

By MUKUNDAN C. MENON

The Milli Gazette Online

P. K. KunjalikuttyThiruvananthapuram: The holy cows of morality in Kerala are now huddled into a collective silence. Not because the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) leader, P. K. Kunjalikutty, quit the UDF Ministry following the orches-trated campaign of witch-hunting unleashed by the moral brigade by selec-tively targeting him in the Kozhicode ice-cream parlor sex scandal. On the other hand, their self-imposed silence was a result of the February 25 verdict of the Kerala High Court Division Bench dismissing three writ petitions seeking to prosecute Kunhalikutty, on the basis of the statements recently given to electronic media by Rejina, a witness in the ice-cream parlour sex scandal case.

The Division Bench comprised of Chief Justice B. Subhashan Reddy, apart from Justice Cyriac Joseph, made the verdict all the more important. It sent shock waves in the concerned circles, which include women's bodies and the Marxist-led opposition parties. The verdict was so stunning that it gave no legal scope for filing an appeal in the Supreme Court. Worst still, all those who launched the motivated campaign and agitation for more than two months till Kunjalikutty resigned were non-pulsed and had no words to comment upon the rude verdict. While CPI-M State Secretary Pinarayi Vijayan limited his reaction terming the verdict as "unexpected", the "Anweshi" women's organization leader, K. Ajitha, excused herself saying she has nothing to comment upon.

It is to be recalled that the original case was registered in 1997 on the basis of a complaint filed by Ajitha, a former Naxalite, on behalf of the Anweshi Women's Counselling Centre. The allegation was that one Sreedevi was running a commer-cial sex centre under the guise of an ice-cream parlour in Kozhikode. Later, the police arrested Sreedevi and made her the first accused in the case. Following investigation, 16 persons were also arrayed as accuse, charging them with offences punishable under Sections 366, 301 (wrongful restraint) and 109 of the Indian Penal Code read with the provisions of the Immoral Traffic Prevention Act.

According to the petitioner, Kunjalikutty had sex with one of the witnesses in the case, Rejina. It was also alleged that since the former Minister was wielding considerable influence and money power, the State Government and its crime investigation agency had saved him from prosecution in spite of availability of abundant evidence against him. The present writ petitions had been filed in the light of Rejina's fresh revelations on TV channels on October 28, 2004, and seeking to include Kunjalikutty as accused to be tried along with the 16 others in the original case pending before the Kozhicode Judicial Magistrate Court.

Terming the batch of writ petitions as "misconceived", the High Court said in its dismissal verdict: "The case had been investigated several times - first by the police in regular course of investigation, secondly at the instance of the Supreme Court in exercise of the final appellate jurisdiction, and thirdly by the Magistrate Court exercising the statutory power under section 173(8) of the Criminal Procedure Code and the charge sheet having the seal of finality. The investigation part was exhausted and the criminal case was now in the realm of a criminal court. No outside intervention was called for.... The matter has been thoroughly investigated concluding that only (16) accused charge-sheeted are liable to be tried and that no case is made out against the first respondent and the highest court of the country has affixed its seal of approval to the manner and mode of the said investigation."

Notably, the High Court categorically said that Rejina cannot be heard by the judiciary for endless period. "Each time Ms. Rejina makes a statement cannot give rise to a fresh course of action. She was examined by the police time and again and she had also made statements before the Court of Magistrate under Section 164 Cr. P.C. three times.... A person claiming to be a witness or victim cannot be heard to say endlessly."

The Division Bench also pointed out that more than sufficient opportunity was afforded to the informant (Anweshi Women's Counselling Centre) and the witnesses. "The matter has been thoroughly investigated, concluding that only 16 accused charge sheeted are liable to be tried and that no case is made out against Kunjalikutty. The highest court of the country has affixed its seal of approval to the manner and make of the said investigation. The verdict of the Supreme Court is final and binding and no person or body can be allowed to take the aid of public interest litigation system to either make an exercise or to pass any orders resulting in an affront to the final verdict of the Supreme Court."

According to the High Court, with the change of litigant, be it individual or body of persons, there cannot be any new cause of action. "New cause of action has to be found on new facts coming to light. Prosecution by aggrieved persons, particularly in the case of sexual offence, is a rule and public interest litigation in that regard should be viewed as rare exception."

Striking another important note, the High Court observed: "Neither the alleged victim Rejina nor her parents or blood relatives preferred any complaint with the police."

Although it was 'Anweshi', as a third party, had filed the original complaint on August 6, 1997, the High Court had a good word about its work: "Dark deeds of sex scandal that would have been buried for ever were unearthed because of the efforts of the Anweshi Women's Counseling Centre".

Interestingly, when all others were non-pulsed without comments against the HC verdict, the victim and prime witness Rejina said the next day that she would go on a fast in front of the Secretariat in Thiruvananthapuram to press for police action against Indian Union Muslim League secretary, P.K. Kunjalikutty, and his co-brother Rauf. She went to the office of an evening daily at Kozhicode along with her husband, Pramod, to announce this. Declaring her determination to stage the agitation as a result of the High Court verdict dismissing the petitions, Rejina also said that she would seek the help of women's rights organ-isations to carry on her struggle.

But, there was no further news about the date of launching the agitation. Apparently, as usual, Rejina once again went into oblivion. Nor was there a single reaction from women's organizations in support of Rejina's proposed agitation. Ironically, although the two-month long statewide anti-Kunjalikutty agitation was held in the name of Rejina's disclosure, the women's organizations and political parties carefully avoided Rejina's presence on their stage and rally. Obviously, they had some suspicion and mistrust, if not outright hatred and fear, on Rejina to keep her at a safe distance. It is also to be recalled that Rejina had changed her version several times, even after her latest TV channel disclosure on October 28, 2004.

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