A day after the Kerala High Court rejected the anticipatory bail petitions of three priests of the Malankara Orthodox Church accused of raping a woman from Thiruvalla, Fr Job Mathew has been taken into custody by the Department of Crime Records Bureau, Kollam on Thursday. While some reports say that he surrendered, others say he has been arrested. The police is yet to give an official statement.
40-year-old Fr Job Mathew, a native of Kollam, is the second accused in the case. He has been accused of blackmailing the survivor using her confession secret in 2009. While the survivor's husband has accused five priests, sources in the department say that the survivor has named only four priests.
According to the survivor’s statement, she was in a relationship with a clergy student Soni Varghese in 1999, when she was 16 years old. Soni Varghese, who went on to become a priest had forced her to continue the relationship, even after the two had gotten married to other individuals. It was prior to the baptism of her baby, that the survivor had confessed to Fr. Job Mathew, who then went on to blackmail her.
Three priests - Fr Abraham Varghese, Fr Jaise K George and Fr Job Mathew had moved the High Court last Tuesday seeking anticipatory bail, just a day after they were booked on charges of rape and molestation. The High Court, however, dismissed the bail pleas stating that there was sufficient evidence available against the accused priests.
Rejecting Job Mathew’s bail application, Justice Rajavijayaraghavan had said, “The second accused is a vicar of a nearby church and the survivor is alleged to have divulged her relationship, and threats from the first accused (Soni Varghese) during confession. She alleges that she was summoned by the accused and she was threatened that the contents of the confession would be revealed to her husband. Under the said threat sexual favours were sought from her.”
The court also said that all the accused are clergy men, who were in a position of dominance over the woman and they had sexually abused her by exploiting the said status. The victim has also told the court that consent was not unequivocal or voluntary. The judge said that he found no reason to ignore the woman’s statement as she had given the magistrate a graphic description as to ‘how she was threatened and forced to succumb to the carnal desires of the accused’. Calling all the accused predators, the court had rejected them bail.
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.
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.