Kerala High Court upholds conviction of former priest in rape case

The Kerala High Court building in Ernakulam.   | Photo Credit: VIBHU H

The Kerala High Court on Wednesday confirmed the conviction awarded by the Thalassery Special Court to Robin Vadakkumcheril, former Vicar of St. Sebastian Church, Kottiyoor in a case relating to raping a minor girl and also under provisions of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.

The court, however, reduced the sentence of 20 years rigorous imprisonment awarded by the Special Court to 10 years rigorous imprisonment.

Justice R. Narayana Pisharady, passed the verdict while disposing of an appeal filed by the former priest against the Special Court judgment.

Earlier, the High Court and the Supreme Court had dismissed his plea for granting him interim bail to marry the rape survivor. The rape survivor, who was sexually assaulted by him when she was just 16 years old and gave birth to a boy in February 2017, had also filed an affidavit expressing her willingness to marry the accused.

In his petition seeking interim bail, he claimed that he still loved the survivor and wanted to lead a family life with her and the child. As his priesthood was an impediment to the marriage, he had made a request before the Pope. The Pope had later “dispensed him from all priestly obligations including celibacy”. That apart, in order to ensure the welfare of the child and also to protect his future, the permission of the court is needed to get married, during the pendency of the appeal. Solemnisation of their marriage, at the earliest, would help them obtain the joint custody of the child from the orphanage home.

The High Court had rejected his plea for bail saying that the question whether the accused committed an offence in the case depends on whether the victim was a child at the time of the incident. It pointed out that the trial court had indeed found her to be a minor when it happened and added that to grant the reliefs sought for as long as the finding remains would amount to giving judicial approval to such marriage. The court also cited various Supreme Court rulings against allowing compromise in rape cases, as it was a crime against the society.

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Printable version | Jan 18, 2022 5:10:09 PM |

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