The Kerala High Court on Wednesday, December 1, reduced the jail term of 53-year-old former Kerala Catholic priest Robin Vadakkumchery, who has been convicted of sexually assaulting and impregnating a minor in Kottiyoor in 2016. On Wednesday, Justice Narayana Pisharadi reduced the sentence from the trial court's punishment of 20 years to 10 years.
The convicted priest had filed an appeal asking that the charges of misusing his post as the head of the institution be removed. Robin was convicted of Section 376 (2), which prescribes a jail term of upto 20 years, and is applicable in cases where a âpublic servant takes advantage of his official position,â and commits the crime of rape. Section 376 (1) prescribes a shorter jail term, of seven to ten years. The judge altered the charges from Section 376 (2) to Section 376 (1), thereby sentencing the former priest to 10 years of rigorous imprisonment coupled with a fine. The accused had filed an appeal in court and the court has now disposed of it.
Vadakkumchery was serving as a parish vicar near Kannur and was the manager of the Church-backed-school where the victim, a Class 11 student, was studying. It was a Childline agency that works among the school children that had registered the complaint against the priest. The priest came under pressure after the girl gave birth to a child on February 7, 2017 at a hospital run by the management. The priest was arrested on February 27, 2017 from near Kochi International airport while he was preparing to slip out of the country. The priest was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment on February 17, 2019 by a court in Thalassery after he was tried under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.
The heinous rape case had taken several twists and turns after the news broke out, exposing how deep the power network ran within the church as an institution. At one point, owing to the unbearable pressure, the girl's father had even claimed that he'd raped his own daughter and impregnated her. During the trial, the victim and her mother turned hostile. Despite that, the court proceeded on the basis of evidence collected already and handed out the verdict. This new development from the High Court came after the now dismissed priest filed a petition and got a favourable order.
At the time of the offence, the survivor was 16 years old and the convict Robin was the manager of the Church-backed school that she used to attend. The priest and the church had pressured the survivorâs family and had at one point had even convinced her father to take the blame upon himself and submit in court that it was he who had raped and impregnated his own daughter. However, later the father broke down and said that it was the priest Robinâs baby, and subsequently, DNA tests proved the same. Robin was convicted and sent to 20 years in prison by the Thalassery POCSO court in February 2019. The court had at the time said that it is not sentencing the priest to life imprisonment since the convict has a child with the survivor.
In July 2020, the rape survivor had approached the Supreme Court seeking permission to âmarry her tormentor.' Vadakkumchery had also filed an outrageous petition seeking suspension of his sentence to âmarry the victim.â The Kerala government had officially opposed the plea. However, the Supreme Court dismissed both the pleas. Later, the Vatican dismissed Vadakkumchery from priesthood.