Former Kerala priest, a rape convict moves court to marry survivor
Robin Vadakkumchery, a former Christian priest in north Kerala who is serving a life term for raping and impregnating a minor girl, moved the Kerala High Court on Wednesday with a plea to allow him to marry the survivor who is a major now.
Surprisingly, the survivor and her parents also signed the petition and moved it jointly with the convict. In the petition, Vadakkumchery (54) said he will have to look after his child and establish his parenthood and needs parole to solemnize his marriage. The High Court is expected to take up his plea on July 24.
During the trial in 2018 he and the survivor’s parents also came out with the same suggestion but the court rejected it and sentenced him to 20 years rigorous of imprisonment.
The trial court had also directed the police to register a case against parents for retracting their earlier statements. A year after his conviction, in February 2019 he was defrocked by Pope Francis.
Reformists in the church said the marriage proposal was another ploy by Vadakkumchery to get his sentence commuted. “We are sure the judiciary will see through his designs,” said Shyju Antony, joint convener of Save Our Sisters, a reformist body floated in the wake of protests against former Bishop of Jalandhar Franco Mullakal for alleged rape.
Vadakkumchery was also sentenced to imprisonment for impregnating the survivor who was then 17 years old. The case in Mananthavady diocese surfaced in early 2017 after the rape survivor, a higher secondary student, gave birth to a baby in the church-run Christu Raja Hospital in Koothuparambha of Kannur district. She was a student of a school run by the church. it is one of the many educational institutions that Vadakkumchery managed.
Vadakkumchery tried to cover up his crime. Initially, the survivor’s father owned up the crime of raping his daughter and was arrested. However, police found discrepancies in his statements and during sustained interrogation he broke down and named Vadakkumchery as the culprit. He said he was forced by church authorities to own up a crime he did not commit. Vadakkumchery, who was once tipped to become Mananthawady Bishop, was arrested near Kochi airport while trying to flee to Canada.
The trial which began in 2018 in the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (Pocso) Act court in Thalassery in north Kerala saw many twists and turns. The survivor, who had crossed 18 then, had told the court that she had consensual sex and they should be allowed to live together. Later, her parents and many other witnesses also turned hostile.
In February 2019 Vadakkumchery was sentenced to a total of 60 years of rigorous imprisonment and slapped ₹3 lakh fine under various offences. Since the sentences are running concurrently he has to spend 20 years in jail.
When asked about Vadakkumchery latest move a spokesman of the Mananthawady Diocese refused any comment saying he was no longer a member of the clergy.