By Matters India Reporter
A Catholic priest in Kerala on February 16 was awarded 20 years of rigorous imprisonment or hard labor for raping and impregnating a minor girl.
A court in Thalassery (formerly Tellicherry), awarded Father Robin Vadakkumchery, former pastor of St Sebastian’s Church Kottiyoor, a parish under Mananthavady diocese, a total of 60 years imprisonment on various charges.
The court that deals with POCSO (Protection of Children Against Sexual Offences Act 2012) cases also imposed a fine of 300,000 rupees on the 51-year-old priest.
Judge P N Vinod ordered that the priest also give 150,000 to the victim, who was his parishioner.
Public prosecutor Beena told reporters that it was important to understand that the priest has been found guilty on three counts involving rape and under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act for 20 years each for every charge.
“But instead of 60 years in jail, he will be spending 20 years in prison as the charges are concurrent.”
The court acquitted other six accused in the case as the prosecution failed to prove the charges against them.
The acquitted are Kottiyoor Palukachi native Thankamma alias Annamma, Sisters Liz Maria alias Elsie, Sister Anita, Sister Ophelia, Betty Jose and Father Thomas Joseph Therakam, former chairperson of Wayanad Child Welfare Council.
However, the court directed the police to take action against the girl’s parents for giving false statements in the court.
Initially, 10 people were arrested in the case, including two doctors and an administrator of the hospital for their alleged role in the sexual exploitation and subsequent delivery of the baby by the minor girl, police said.
The Supreme Court had relieved three persons from the trial of the case.
The prime accused, Father Vadakkumchery from Nadavayal in Kerala’s Wayanad district, was charged with rape under the POCSO Act.
The rape case came to light after the victim delivered a baby boy in December 2016, at Christuraja Hospital in Kuthuparamba in Kannur district. Childline India officials intimated the police and a case was registered on February 27, 2017, by the Peravoor police. The girl was then shifted to an adoption center in Vythiri, Wayanad.
Initially, the 16-year-old girl’s father admitted to raping his daughter, but police arrested Father Vadakkumchery on the basis of secret information received at the NGO Childline .
Amaljit Thomas, the nodal officer for Childline in Kannur, explained how they zeroed on to the priest.
“We had to act swiftly and smartly. The new born baby of the minor mother was crucial evidence in the case and needed to be protected. We moved swiftly by seeking permission from Child Welfare Committee. We first grew suspicious based on an anonymous call that we received. Later as we investigated, we realized no one’s statement was matching, so we alerted the police. Soon the accused was zeroed down as Father Robin,” he explained.
The priest was arrested while trying to flee to Canada.
The girl has now finished school and lives with her parents while her child is living in a foster care, under protection.
The diocese suspended Father Vadakkumchery immediately after the case was registered, but did not defrock him.
Although the victim as well as her family had turned hostile in the case, the prosecution relied on the statement of the government doctor . The doctor’s statement was crucial and established that the girl was a minor and that the sexual relation, even if it had the minor’s consent, could only be considered a rape.