Rape of minor: HC upholds conviction of ex-priest

The Kerala High Court on Wednesday confirmed the conviction awarded by the Thalassery Special Court to Robin Mathew Vadakkumcheril, former vicar of St. Sebastian Church, Kottiyoor, for raping a minor girl. The court also upheld his conviction under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act. The court, however, reduced the sentence of 20-year rigorous imprisonment given by the POCSO Special Court to 10 years.

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

Fine upheld

Reducing the sentence, the court observed that Section 42 of the POCSO Act provided that where an offence punishable under the Act and also under Section 376 of the Indian Penal Code, the offender shall be liable to the more stringent punishment. The offence under Section 5 read with Section 6 of the POCSO Act, before amendment by Act 25 of 2019, was punishable with a minimum sentence of rigorous imprisonment for 10 years, whereas the punishment for Section 376 was seven years. The court also upheld the fine of ₹1,00,000 imposed on the accused.

‘Position of trust’

The accused was convicted by the Special Court as it found that he had sexual intercourse with the girl who was then aged below 18 years. The High Court, however, ‘altered’ the conviction for the offence under Section 376 (2)(f) of the IPC to Section 376 (1) of IPC (rape). The court noted that Section 376(2)(f) was invoked when a person in a position of trust raped a woman. Just because the accused was the priest/vicar of the local church, it could not be said that he had held a position of trust towards the survivor.

There was initially an attempt by the survivor’s family to hush up the case and save the former priest. The survivor had stated to the police that it was her own father who had raped her and he was the father of her child. During the trial too, the survivor stated that the sexual intercourse was with mutual consent and that she had no complaints against the accused.

Marriage plea dismissed

Earlier, the High Court and the Supreme Court had dismissed the plea of the accused to grant him interim bail to marry the survivor. The survivor, who 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 had claimed that he loved the survivor and wanted to lead a family life with her and his child.

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Printable version | Jan 16, 2022 4:24:26 PM |

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