The State Government on Thursday ordered a judicial probe into the death of two school girls in Walayar, Palakkad. The Cabinet has appointed former Vigilance Tribunal judge S Haneefa to head the probe.
The cabinet decision comes a day after the State Government told the High Court that there were grave shortcomings on the part of both the police and the public prosecutor in dealing with the death of two sisters, aged 9 and 13, and wanted the verdict of Palakkad Special Court acquitting the four accused to be quashed. However, the mother of the girls said she was not satisfied with a judicial probe. "We want a CBI probe," she told reporters. The Opposition, too, had called for a CBI probe.
The judicial probe will look into the various failings of the investigation into the deaths, both of them passed off as suicide. The post mortem of the elder girl had revealed tell-tale evidence of brutal sexual assault. The forensic expert who did the post mortem had even noted in the report that homicide could not be ruled out, that the girl could hve been first killed and then hung up from the ceiling.
The police ignored these findings. The police has also brushed aside the statements of certain witnesses, too. The elder girl was found dead on January 12, 2017, and two months later, on March 4, the younger nine-year-old girl was found hanging in the shed outside the house.
The government had told the High Court that there was no coordination between the police and the special public prosecutor. The investigating agency could not nail the culprits even after two months of investigation.
The Judicial probe will recommend punitive measures against those found guilty. The one-member Commission will also be asked to suggest measures to be adopted to avoid such failures in future.
The judicial probe will also see whether the accused had the backing of local CPM leaders, as alleged by the Opposition.
The announcement of a judicial probe is also seen as a victory for the Opposition. The botched up investigation into the death of the girls was one of the first issues the UDF had taken up in the Assembly this session. They raised it as an adjournment motion on October 28.
The Congress had also taken to the streets demanding justice for the Walayar sisters. It was during such a demonstration that Shafi Parambil MLA and KSU activists were beaten up by the police. Now, on the last day of the Assembly session, a judicial probe has been ordered.
Congress MLA Shafi Parambil, who raised the issue in the Assembly, said a de novo enquiry or a fresh probe, like what the Rajasthan government did in the Pehlu Khan lynching case, alone would suffice. Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala had called for a CBI probe.
Shafi accused the police of shocking indifference. “The mother of the girls had told the police that she had seen one of the accused abusing her child. The man was taken into custody but was brought out of jail by local CPM leaders,” Shafi said.
“Merely 52 days later, the second child died and it was revealed that the very same men were behind this too. If the police had taken the mother's word seriously, if they had acted then, the life of at least one of these girls could have been saved,” Shafi said. “But why should the police fear when they have the backing of the local party bigwigs,” he added.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had then termed as “baseless” the opposition charge that the case was sabotaged.