High Court stays trial in nun’s death case

Justice has eluded Sister Abhaya’s family with the case meandering on account of many rounds of litigations filed by the accused.

The High Court has now stayed the trial proceedings on a petition filed by Jomon Puthenpurackal, a human rights activist and former convener of the Action Council.

Abhaya was found dead in the well of the Pius X Convent, Kottayam, on March 27, 1992.

After a lot of legal battles fought by Abhaya’s father and the Action Council, it took 16 years for the investigation agency to arrest the accused— Fr. Jose Poothrukayil, Fr. Thomas M. Kottoor, and Sister Stephy.

In its final report, the CBI had taken the stand that though there were no eyewitnesses; it had sufficient evidence to try the accused.

The CBI’s case was that Stephy had hit Abhaya three times on the head with the blunt side of an axe when the 19-year-old entered the convent’s kitchen to drink water and found the accused in a compromising position.

The prosecution’s charge was that the accused had thrown Abhaya into the convent’s well to make her death appear as if it was a case of suicide or an accident. The agency had concluded that the inquest report filed by the State police was ‘false and forged’ and that Abhaya’s death was a case of homicidal drowning. The accused had been released on bail on a directive of the High Court. The crime branch which had earlier investigated the case had written off it as a case of suicide.

A.X. Varghese, who is the counsel for Thomas, father of Abhaya said the CBI had been under tremendous pressure to prolong the investigation to save the accused. As a result, the father had to approach the courts to get justice for the victim. This was one of the reasons for the delay in prosecution. The Ernakulum Chief Judicial Magistrate Court had to intervene to set right the wrongs committed by the investigation agency.

C.P. Udayabhanu, who had once appeared for one of the accused, said the CBI could not make any arrest at the initial stage because of the lack of evidence. The accused were rounded up after they underwent narco analysis. He said the Supreme Court had recently held that the narco analysis result could not be accepted as evidence.

The result, he said, could provide the agency leads in the investigation.

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