Kerala [ Images ] high court on Thursday granted bail to the 31 accused in the 1996 Suryanelli gang rape case.
A division bench comprising Justices K T Shankaran and M L Joseph Francis allowed the bail pleas filed by the accused last month.
The lone convict in the case, Dharmarajan, who was absconding and was arrested recently from Sagar in Karnataka [ Images ], is now in jail, to serve the rest of his life sentence.
The court rejected the government counsel's argument that the accused should first surrender before the trial court before their plea could be taken up by high court.
The Supreme Court had stayed the 2005 high court judgement acquitting the accused three months ago.
The case relates to the rape of a 16-year-old girl of Suryanelli in Idukki district of Kerala in 1996. The victim, a school girl, was allegedly abducted and taken to various places and sexually exploited by different persons.
The victim had also sought a fresh probe against Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairperson P J Kurien, alleging that he was among those abused her. Kurien has rejected the charge.
The high court granted bail to the accused subject to stringent conditions including surrender of their passports before the trial court.
The court also directed them to deposit the full fine amount ordered by the trial court within three weeks. The accused should not leave Kerala without the permission of the court.
They should execute a bond of Rs 50,000 with solvent sureties for the like amount. "The accused shall not indulge in any activity causing annoyance to the peaceful life of the victim and family members in any manner," the order said.
The court said the original sentence against the accused could be executed if they failed to comply with the conditions.
The court noted that since the accused were not in confinement, it would be sufficient to suspend the execution of the sentence. The final hearing on the appeal of the accused would commence on April 2.