Kerala priest gets 20-year jail term for rape of minor
A Kerala court on Saturday sentenced a Catholic clergyman to 20 years’ rigorous imprisonment for raping a minor, who gave birth two years ago, in a case that took several shocking turns.
A criminal court in Thalassery, Kannur district, found Fr Robin Vadakkumchery, 50, guilty of the crime, but acquitted seven others — six nuns and a priest — who had been charged with conspiracy and destruction of evidence.
Additional sessions judge P.N. Vinod convicted Vadakkumchery under IPC Section 376 (2) (f) that relates to rape by a teacher or guardian, and Sections 5 and 9 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, which deals with sexual abuse in an institution, and aggravated sexual assault.
It also fined Vadakkumchery Rs 3 lakh, half of which will be given to the survivor, and ordered the Legal Services Authority to take care of the mother and child.
Malayalam channels reported that Vadakkumchery was smiling when he was pronounced guilty and was calm throughout the session.
The court verdict was based on the gynaecologist’s report from the hospital where the survivor delivered the baby. The document helped the prosecution prove that the victim was 16 years old, a minor, when she gave birth.
Vadakkumchery had been the administrator of the Catholic school where she studied in Kannur. A paternity test also helped the prosecution nail the priest.
The case witnessed several twists. At one stage the survivor had expressed willingness to live as the priest’s wife. On another occasion, her father had falsely claimed that it was he who had raped his daughter, and not the priest.
The court ordered a probe against the parents over allegations that they tried to conceal the crime. Many had claimed that the lower-middle-class family had been under tremendous pressure to save the priest from being prosecuted.
The delivery of the baby on February 7, 2017, had been handled discretely at a Church-run hospital in Thokkilangadi, Kannur.
Her parents had allegedly kept even their daughter in the dark about her pregnancy and explained the labour pain as “stomach ache”.
But everything changed when Child Line, a government child-protection group, received an anonymous letter about the incident.
The Mananthavady Diocese, to which the convicted clergyman belongs, welcomed the verdict.