The Pinarayi Vijayan-led Kerala government on Thursday announced a judicial investigation into the alleged sexual assault and murder of two minor sisters in Palakkad district in 2017, PTI reported. The announcement came a day after the government filed an appeal in the High Court to challenge the acquittal of the three accused in the case.

The judicial probe will be conducted by former District Judge PK Haneefa, who is chairperson of Kerala State Commission for Minorities.

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 and raped.

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

The government also 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 had also alleged that the investigating agency had succumbed to political pressure and obeyed its political masters to helped weaken the case against the accused.

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

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