The Kerala High Court on Wednesday dismissed the anticipatory bail plea of the three priests of the Malankara Orthodox Church who are accused of raping a woman from Thiruvalla.
Fr Abraham Varghese, Fr Jaise K George and Fr Job Mathew had moved the HC last Tuesday seeking anticipatory bail, just a day after they were booked on charges of rape and molestation.
Dismissing the anticipatory bail plea, the HC said that prima facie there was sufficient evidence available against the accused priests. The court has reportedly accepted the prosecution’s argument that the woman was raped.
The Crime Branch, which is currently investigating the case, told the court that anticipatory bail should not be granted to the accused priests since it was essential to take them into custody for questioning.
The court directed the investigating team to carry on with the probe. According to reports, the accused priests, who are currently absconding, have said that they were willing to surrender before the investigating team.
In their anticipatory bail plea, the priests had argued that the rape charges against them will not stand, since the survivor, in a declaration submitted before the church, has not alleged rape. They argued that the “sexual relationship was consensual”.
While they cited the declaration filed by the survivor to the church to argue their case, the investigation team has maintained that the document cannot be considered a legal document.
Last week, the survivor’s statement was recorded before a magistrate, where she reiterated that she was raped by the priests after threatening her using her confessional secret.
When the plea was taken up initially, the HC declined to grant interim relief to the accused priests and asked the government to submit the statement of the woman.
Meanwhile, the National Commission for Women (NCW) took suo motu cognisance of the woman’s allegation. NCW chief Rekha Sharma also met the survivor at her home.
The case came to light in June after an audio clip of the survivor’s husband explaining the sexual abuse faced by his wife surfaced on social media. Following this, it was revealed that the Thiruvalla man had reported the incident to the church way back in May this year. However, the church had not reported it to the police. The police was forced to take up the case suo motu after it came under tremendous pressure. The DGP directed the Crime Branch to file an FIR and begin a probe after Communist leader VS Achuthanandan wrote to the DGP seeking police intervention.