In the wake of the state Crime Branch slapping rape and molestation charges against four priests of the Malankara Orthodox Church in Kerala, two of the accused priests sought legal recourse to avoid arrest.
On Tuesday, Fr Abraham Varghese and Fr Job Mathew applied for anticipatory bail at the Kerala High Court. This, after the Crime Branch named them, along with two other priests of various dioceses, for allegedly raping a woman from Thiruvalla.
According to reports, the court declined to pass an order asking the investigating team not to arrest the accused priests and posted the case for Monday. Although the government counsel argued that a criminal case has been registered against the priests and that the nature of the allegations are serious, counsel representing the priests reportedly argued that the woman has not raised any allegations of rape. The Crime Branch registered the FIR based on the statement given by the survivor and submitted it to the Thiruvalla magistrate court.
However, counsel for the priests argued that when the womanâ€™s statement was taken into consideration, the rape allegation would not stand and â€śat best can only amount to consensual sexâ€ť.
Counsel for the #Priests of the Malankara Syrian Orthodox Church in Kerala allegedly involved in a rape case argued before the Kerala High Court that even going by the statement by the lady, 'rape' will not lie against them and at the best it can only amount to #consensual #sexâ€” P Ramdas (@PRamdas_TNIE) July 3, 2018
The court also directed the government to submit a report regarding the womanâ€™s statement. The anticipatory bail was filed at the court on the same day the Crime Branch officials met to decide the future course of action, including arresting the accused priests.
According to a written declaration believed to have been given to the Orthodox Church by the survivor, she stated that she had a relationship with Fr Abraham Varghese before her marriage. The two also were in a physical relationship and at the time the survivor was a minor. Reports indicate that the Crime Branch is also mulling charging Fr Abraham Varghese under relevant sections of POCSO.
Mathrubhumi reported that Fr Abraham Varghese, in his petition seeking anticipatory bail, argued that the case against him was fabricated. He has also alleged that the survivorâ€™s husband was behind the accusations.