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The Suryanelli rape case concerns a 16-year-old girl who was sexually harassed and assaulted continuously for 40 days by 42 men in 1996. The girl from Suryanelli in Idukki district of Kerala in India who was transported from place to place across Kerala. The accused, initially estimated at 42, included some well-known and well-placed individuals.
The girl was enticed, threatened, abducted and sexually exploited by a bus conductor on January 16, 1996. Subsequently, she was transferred to the custody of two other persons, one of whom was a woman and another an advocate. The duo presented her to several men, including prominent persons, in various places in Kerala. Terrorised, shocked and ill, she was on February 26 asked by her captors to go home. They gave her a small amount of money and threatened her with dire consequences if she told anyone about what had happened.
In 1999, under public pressure, the government set up the State's first-ever Special Court to try a case of sexual assault. A serious inquiry conducted by a team led by Inspector-General of Police Sibi Mathew brought the culprits to book.
On September 6, 2000, the Special Court sentenced 35 persons to rigorous imprisonment for varying terms. The first accused, conductor Raju, and second accused, Usha, were sentenced to 13 years of rigorous imprisonment with fine and an additional jail term of four years on different counts. Four of the accused were let off. Two others, including the key accused, advocate S.S. Dharmarajan, were absconding during the first phase of the trial.
On 20 January 2005, the Kerala High Court acquitted the 35 convicted earlier and found Dharmarajan guilty only of crimes related to the sex trade (procuring and selling a minor for purposes of prostitution, etc.). Accordingly, his sentence was reduced to five years and fines amounting to Rs. 50,000.