Kerala rape case: High court cuts down former Catholic priest’s prison term to 10 yrs
The Kerala High Court on Wednesday reduced the sentence of former Catholic priest Robin Vadakumchery, 54, who was found guilty of raping a minor, from 20 to 10 years.
The trail court in Thalassery in north Kerala had sentenced him to 20 years rigorous imprisonment and a fine of ₹2 lakh in 2019. Found guilty of rape and other provisions of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act he was sentenced to 60 years but the trial court had fixed his jail term to 20 years.
Hearing a plea against the trail court’s verdict the single bench of Justice Narayana Pisharadi altered charges from Section 376 (2) to Section 376 (1) of the Indian Penal Code (misuse of position to influence a victim) which reduced the sentence to 10 years. However charges under the Pocso will remain, the court observed.
Vadakumchery, a senior priest, was convicted for impregnating a 17-year-old girl in Mananthavady (Wayanad) diocese in 2018. The case surfaced in early 2017 after the rape survivor, a higher secondary student, gave birth to a baby in the church-run hospital. She was a student of church-run school, one of the many educational institutions managed by Vadakumchery. There were many attempts to hush up the case but it came out.
Initially, the victim’s father owned up the crime of raping his daughter and was arrested. However, police found major discrepancies in his statements and during sustained interrogation he broke down and named Vadakumchery. He said he was forced to own up the crime by church authorities.
Vadakkumchery, who was once tipped to become Mananthawady Bishop, was arrested near Kochi airport while trying to flee to Canada.
The senior priest’s arrest had invited enough embarrassment to the powerful Catholic church in the state. A year after his conviction, he was defrocked by Pope Francis in 2019. In July the Supreme Court had turned down his plea to marry the victim, who is a major now. Both, victim and her tormentor, moved the plea together but the court refused to entertain it.