Yet another sex scandal, reportedly involving influential people, is rocking Kerala after a top court pulled up the state government for lapses in investigation.
Four people, including the victim's aunt who allegedly sold the minor to a gang running the sex racket, were arrested. But most of the culprits, including kingpin Lata Nair, are still at large.
Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said the government took the court's observations seriously and acted accordingly. The investigating officer was suspended from service and a special investigation team headed by Deputy Inspector General (DIG) R. Sreelekha has taken over.
The girl from Kiliroor village in the central Kerala district of Kottayam was lured into flesh trade offering roles in television soaps and was taken to various places both within and outside the state.
She came back and delivered a child on Aug. 15 after abortion attempts failed. After delivery, she fell seriously ill and was shifted to Kottayam Medical College.
Her condition continues to be critical. This was the latest episode of a series of cases of minor girls being trapped and sexually exploited for months together.
Local newspaper reports said a top television channel official and a controversial NRI businessman were also involved.
A fortnight back, the priest of a temple, his wife and three children ended their life in a suicide pact leaving a note accusing Lata Nair of dragging the family into the scandal and extorting tens of thousands of rupees.
"We admit the faults. Investigation was progressing at a slow pace. But no culprit would be spared," Chandy told journalists in Cochin yesterday. He also said the police had failed to take the court into confidence.
Opposition Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), meanwhile, accused Chandy of shielding the culprits. The CPI-M state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan said two sheets containing names of "influential people" were missing from the police case diary submitted in the High Court.
The High Court observed that there was no "efficient and expeditious" investigation.
According to the police, the girl must have been in the racket for nearly a year and exploited by many people. They refused to divulge more details saying the investigation was in early stages.
The High Court found that the complaint lodged by the victim's father with the superintendent of police had not been treated as the First Information Report. The page one of the complaint was different from pages two and three. The contents of the pages were found contradictory.
It directed the High Court Registry to sign and affix a High Court seal on the pages of the complaint to ensure that no further tampering with the complaint took place.
Rights activist K. Ajitha, who unearthed some eight years ago a similar case known as Calicut Ice Cream Parlor case, in which several teenage girls were allegedly lured into flesh trade, urged the chief minister to ensure that the 'high and mighty' are not let off scot-free.
"In all the similar cases in the past like Suryanelli, Vithura, Pandalam, Calicut Icecream and Thoppumpady, all the influential people escaped law using money and muscle power," she told journalists here.