The Kerala Assembly on Wednesday accepted the Justice P K Haneefa report on the unnatural death of sisters aged 13 and 9 in January and March, 2017, at Selvapuram Attappallam within Palakkad's Walayar Police Station limits. The enquiry commission's report, which was kept under wraps for more than half a year, found serious lapses in police investigation and prosecution proceedings. A recent High Court order was also withering in its criticism of both the police and the public prosecutors.
The Commission of Enquiry has found fault only with sub inspector PC Chacko but the government has said a departmental inquiry would be initiated to determine whether there were lapses on the part of other investigating officers. The mother of the victims had levelled serious charges against Sojan MJ, the then DySP who had taken over the probe on March 9, 2017, five days after Chacko began investigation. The High Court, however, had said Sojan had done a good job given the constraints.
The Haneefa Commission of Enquiry was asked to probe whether there were failings during the investigation and prosecution stages of the twin deaths. If there were faults, the Commission was also asked to fix responsibility and recommend action.
The foul-ups of Walayar police station sub inspector PC Chacko, the Haneefa Commission said, were “grave”. The Commission found that the SI had refused to record the statement of the victim's mother, and failed to slap relevant provisions under the Indian Penal Code and Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO) Act on the accused. He also delayed taking into custody the clothes of the elder girl.
Further, even though it was clear the life of the second girl was in danger, the SI failed to present the younger girl before the Child Welfare Committee and subject her to counselling.
All of this, the report said, had caused the loss of direct and scientific evidences, and consequently weakened the follow up investigation. "His failings are highly condemnable," the report said. "Therefore, action against him should be commensurate with the impact his actions had on the fate of the case." The Commission recommended that Chacko be permanently stripped of all investigation responsibilities. In its action taken report, the government had accepted this recommendation.
The failures on the part of the two public prosecutors, Latha Jayaraj and her replacement Jalaja Madhavan, too, were found to be grave. Their appointments to the special public prosecutor post has been annulled. They will never be made one in future either.
The key accusation against the accused was that they had forced unnatural sex on the elder girl. "Anal orifice appeared stretched with multiple mucosal erosion at the margins with pustular areas at places," the postmortem report had said. But when the special public prosecutor (Jalaja Madhavan) cross-examined the doctor who did the post-mortem, The Commission found that she did not pose one question that would have thrown light on the fact that the wounds described in the postmortem report were caused as a consequence of forced unnatural sex. Jalaja did not bother to examine the witness even later, the report added.
The first special public prosecutor, Latha Jayaraj, failed to bring the statements of the mother and father, as recorded by the police, to the notice of the Court. The Commission also found as a major failing Latha Jayaraj's refusal to file a petition asking for a member from the special investigation team to assist her.
The Commission also recommended that a candidate chosen as public prosecutor in a sessions court should undergo a minimum two-month training in Kerala Judicial Academy. It also said that a panel of efficient criminal lawyers should be drawn up before finalising a special public prosecutor for sensitive and sensational cases. Both these recommendations were accepted by the government.