Sister Abhaya case: CBI court to pronounce quantum of punishment on Wednesday

The court on Tuesday found a Catholic priest and a nun guilty in the 28-year-old case. Father Thomas Kotoor and Sister Sefi, the priest and the nun respectively, were taken into judicial custody after the mandatory Covid-19 testing.
Sister Abhaya (19) was found dead in the well of the Pious X Convent in Kottayam in March 1992.(Twitter)
Sister Abhaya (19) was found dead in the well of the Pious X Convent in Kottayam in March 1992.(Twitter)
Updated on Dec 22, 2020 11:08 PM IST
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Hindustan Times, New Delhi | Byhindustantimes.com | Edited by Ayshee Bhaduri

A special CBI court in Thiruvananthapuram will on Wednesday pronounce the quantum of sentence in the Sister Abhaya murder case. The court had on Tuesday found a Catholic priest and a nun guilty in the 28-year-old case.

The priest - Father Thomas Kotoor - was charged under sections 302, 201 and 449 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), whereas the nun - Sister Sefi - was booked under sections 201 and 302 of the IPC.

The priest and the nun, who were on bail, were taken into judicial custody after the mandatory Covid-19 testing. Father Kotoor was shifted to the Poojapura Central jail, and Sister Sefi to the Attakulangara women’s prison in Thiruvananthapuram.

Sister Abhaya (19) was found dead in the well of the Pious X Convent in Kottayam in March 1992. It was initially dismissed as a suicide by the state police and crime branch, but the CBI later concluded that it was murder. In 2009, the CBI charge-sheeted Kottoor and Sefi in the case. It still took 11 years for the case to reach its logical conclusion due to prolonged legal battles.

According to the CBI charge-sheet, on the day of her death, Abhaya got up early to study and went to the kitchen to wash her face. The charge-sheet surmised that she witnessed some sexual activity involving the two priests and nun and was killed because they feared she may disclose what she had witnessed.

She was first attacked with an axe and later dumped in the well, the CBI claimed. Although the case created a sensation in Kerala, the church stood by the accused, saying the accused were innocent.

Interestingly, the CBI had filed three reports in the case; in first report it said the death of Abhaya was a case of “homicidal suicide.” But this report was rejected by the court, which ordered a fresh investigation. In the second report, the agency said it could not establish beyond doubt whether it was a suicide or murder. In the last report it filed in 2008, the agency said it was a case of murder and arrested the two priests and nun.

Another accused, Father Jose Poothrukayil, was discharged by the CBI court last year, on grounds of insufficient evidence.

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Wednesday, May 18, 2022