The Kerala High Court on Thursday, June 23, granted bail to Catholic priest Thomas M Kottur and Sister Steffi, convicted in the sensational sister Abhaya murder case. The two have been asked to deposit a sum of Rs 5 lakh each and barred them from leaving the state without the court's permission.
Incidentally, in December 2020, a CBI Special Court had sentenced Kottur to two life terms besides a fine of Rs 5 lakh after he was convicted under Section 302 (punishment for murder) of the IPC. Sister Steffi was also convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment under the same charge, in addition to seven years of rigorous imprisonment for tampering with evidence under Section 201 (causing disappearance of evidence of offence, or giving false information, to screen offender) of the IPC.
Twenty-one-year-old sister Abhaya was found dead in a well on March 27, 1992 at the Pious Tenth Convent in Kottayam. The case was dealt with by the local police and subsequently the Kerala Crime Branch, who later closed it as a case of suicide. After several activists, including Jomon Puthenpurackal, levelled allegations that the investigating officials botched up the case, it was reopened in 1993 and given to the CBI. Thirteen batches of CBI officers probed her death, and a chargesheet was finally filed in 2008.
Jomon Puthenpurackal, Convener of Sister Abhaya Action Council, who was present at the court slammed the CBI for its "laxity".
"It's strange and unfortunate that the CBI doesn't have a standing counsel and the counsel who appeared in this case for the CBI is one who does not understand Malayalam and did nothing. What happened today was that the accused got bail without the court going into the merit of the case," said Puthanpurakal.
"We will now write to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and to the CBI director on how the CBI has been handling this case," said Puthanpurakal, who has been following this case for the past three decades and has even written a book on the same.