The Kerala Police have formed a special team to reinvestigate the death by suspected suicide of two minor Dalit girls, both sisters from an impoverished family, at Walayar in Palakkad in 2017.
State Police Chief Loknath Behera has tapped R. Nishanthini, Superintendent of Police, to head the probe. He has constituted a special investigation team (SIT) for the purpose.
After a trial court acquitted the three persons alleged to be responsible for their deaths, the government and the police had come under withering criticism from across the social and political spectrum for “sabotaging” the investigation and subsequent prosecution to save the accused.
The High Court had recently set aside the acquittal by a special court for the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO). It slammed the ruined prosecution and ordered a further inquiry and retrial.
The SIT would give an application in the POCSO court seeking a reinvestigation. The government had handed over the case to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). However, the SIT would immediately commence the probe and hand over the case to the CBI as and when it comes on board.
The case had become a political hot potato for the government. The Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party alleged that the suspects, all men in the neighbourhood of the victims, were Communist Party of India (Marxist) [CPI(M)] supporters. They alleged the police had consequently developed cold feet and scuttled the probe bowing to political influence.
Moreover, Opposition parties pointed out that the lawyer who defended the accused was a CPI(M) functionary who had officiated for years as the District Child Welfare Committee’s chairperson. They said the entire case smacked of conflict of interest and conspiracy to save the accused.
The alleged police apathy to the Dalit family’s plight had driven the victims’ parents to the street to seek justice for their wards.
The couple also moved the High Court for a reinvestigation. The parents also sought a parallel probe into the “shoddy” police investigation that saved the suspects from conviction.
The government had supported the parents’ plea to overturn the accused’s acquittal and institute a re-inquiry. It had also appointed a commission of inquiry to probe the matter. The commission had pointed out severe flaws in the investigation and faulty prosecution as reasons for the acquittal.