The Kerala High Court on Wednesday ordered a retrial in the 2017 Walayar case pertaining to the alleged rape and murder of two minors in Palakkad district, reported The Hindu. A special court had acquitted all the accused in the case citing lack of evidence on October 25, 2019.

The two girls, aged 13 and nine, were found dead inside in their home in Wayalar, Palakkad, 52 days apart. The teenager was found on January 13, 2017, and her sister on March 4. Autopsy reports revealed that the sisters had been sexually assaulted. The accused, Valya Madhu and Kutti Madhu, are close relatives of their mother, while another accused Shibu is a former employee of her parents. The fourth accused, Pradeep Kumar, lived in the vicinity. He died by suicide after the Kerala government appealed against the acquittals.

Following the acquittal of the accused, on November 21, 2019, the Kerala government had announced that a judicial investigation would be conducted. This came a day after the government filed an appeal in the High Court to challenge the acquittal of the three accused in the case.

On Wednesday, a division bench of Justices A Hariprasad and MR Anitha allowed the state government and the mother’s appeals, and set aside the special court’s order. The accused were asked to appear before the special court on January 20.

The court noted serious lapses in the inquiry, and said that the whole matter needed fresh consideration. The court also permitted the prosecution to seek permission from the trial court order for further investigation into the case.

“We are constrained to observe that the initial part of the investigation into this case was utterly disgusting,” it said, according to PTI. “The probe officer, deputed to investigate into the case, failed to gather any proper scientific evidence even after a week after the death of the younger girl.”

The bench also expressed displeasure in the way the POCSO court conducted the trial, and highlighted the need for special training for the judges. “We are disheartened to note the manner in which the learned Judge conducted the trial,” the Kerala High Court’s bench said, according to NDTV. “He failed to perform a proactive role at the time of taking evidence.”

The Pinarayi Vijayan-led administration had in November 2019 called the decision of the court under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act “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. Opposition parties in Kerala had then criticised the state government for the acquittals and claimed that the accused were shielded by the ruling Left Democratic Front.