In what has come as another reprieve for the two Kerala Orthodox Church priests accused of raping a woman from Thiruvalla, the Supreme Court on Thursday extended its direction to the state police to not arrest them until the orders in the anticipatory bail plea are out. This, even as the apex court has reserved its verdict in the case.
The bail application was filed by Fr Abraham Varghese alias Sony, the first accused in the case and Fr Jais K George, the fourth accused.
The top court had on Tuesday directed the police to not arrest the two priests while deferring the hearing of the case to Thursday.
The state Crime Branch had submitted a report in the court that the accused shouldnâ€™t be granted bail.
Meanwhile, the Thiruvalla First Class Magistrate Court has rejected the bail applications of two priests, who were arrested in the case.
Fr Abraham Varghese (A1), Fr Job Mathew (A2), Dr Johnson Mathew (A3) and Fr Jaise K George (A4) - four priests belonging to the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church were booked by the state Crime Branch for allegedly raping and molesting a woman parishioner. Following this, all the accused priests had gone into hiding. Last week, however, after the Kerala HC refused to grant anticipatory bail, second accused Fr Job Mathew surrendered to the police. Two days after this, the team arrested third accused Fr Johnson Mathew as well.
It is alleged that the main accused Fr Abraham Varghese had been sexually abusing the woman since the age of 16. The woman, in her statement to the Crime Branch, had said that she was in a relationship with him in 1999 when she was 16 years old. He went on to become a priest but forced her to continue the relationship, despite the two of them getting married to other individuals.
Prior to the baptism of her baby, the woman had during secret confessions told the second accused Fr Job Mathew about this, who then went on to blackmail and abuse her. According to her statement, Fr Johnson Mathew, the third accused sent her sexually coloured messages on WhatsApp and also sexually assaulted her in the car. He also allegedly morphed the survivor's face onto a nude photograph of another woman and threatened to circulate it on the internet. Fr Johnson Mathew was her senior in college and got in touch with her on WhatsApp, states the survivorâ€™s statement.
The woman confessed this to the fourth accused Fr Jaise K George- who is a counsellor, who allegedly threatened to reveal her past and allegedly sexually abused her.
The incident came to light in June, when an audio clip of the woman's husband went viral on social media. In the audio clip, the woman's husband described how the priests had sexually abused his wife. Although the husband had approached the church with a complaint in May, the accused priests were sent on leave and no police complaint was filed.
However, after the audio clip circulated, the police came under tremendous pressure, as a result of which, the Crime Branch booked four priests.
Based on this the DGP had directed the Crime Branch to investigate the case.