The Pinarayi Vijayan-led Kerala government on Wednesday filed an appeal in the High Court to challenge the acquittal of the three accused in the alleged sexual assault and murder of two minor sisters in Palakkad district in 2017, PTI reported.

The older girl, who was 13 years old, was found hanging at her home in Walayar town on January 13, 2017. On March 4 that year, her nine-year-old sister was found dead in the same manner. Autopsy reports revealed that the sisters had been sexually assaulted.

A court under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act acquitted V Madhu, M Madhu and Shibu for lack of evidence on October 25. The court had acquitted another accused, Pradeep Kumar, earlier for the same reason.

The state government called the POCSO court’s verdict “absolutely perverse and wholly unsustainable”. It sought direction from the High Court to call for the records of the case, set aside the lower court judgment and convict the accused for the offences or order an investigation into the crime.

“The judgment of acquittal passed by the lower court is against law and without any proper analysis of the evidence on record,” the government said in its appeal. “The lower court seriously erred in disbelieving the eyewitness accounts of the parents of the victims and even disbelieved the testimony of the girls’ mother.”

The government admitted that police failed to conduct a thorough investigation in the case.

On Monday, the government had told the Assembly that the special public prosecutor in the case had been removed. The prosecutor could not present incriminating evidence against the accused. In its appeal, the government alleged that the witness statements were used by the prosecutor “with oblique motive, to contradict the hostile witnesses or to corroborate the supporting witnesses”. His conduct before the POCSO court was “totally blameworthy”, it added.

The mother of the girls had last week approached the Kerala High Court and sought punishment for the accused “for the maximum term of the offence committed by them” or to direct a fresh trial and the appointment of a new prosecutor. The mother, in her appeal, had also alleged that the investigating agency had succumbed to political pressure and obeyed its political masters to pave the escape route for the accused in the case.

Opposition parties in Kerala have criticised the state government since the acquittals and also claimed that the accused were shielded by the ruling Left Democratic Front.

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