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Church Sex Scandal reaches Supreme Court; Kerala Priest seeks Anticipatory Bail in Rape case
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Church Sex Scandal reaches Supreme Court; Kerala Priest seeks Anticipatory Bail in Rape case

Murali Krishnan

Kerala priest, Father Sony Varghese accused of raping a 34-year old woman has moved the Supreme Court for anticipatory bail.

In a petition filed through advocate A Karthik, Father Varghese (appellant) has challenged the order of the Kerala High Court which had denied three priests including the appellant, anticipatory bail.

The appellant belonging to Malankara Syrian Orthodox Church has been accused of having committed offences punishable under Sections 376, 354, 354A, 506(i) of the IPC.

The survivor is a married woman while the accused are clergymen of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church. The husband of the survivor lady approached the Bishop of the Marthomma Church and submitted a complaint wherein allegations of gross sexual impropriety were alleged against the appellant and other priests.

This was leaked to the media from some quarters. A veteran political leader took up the issue and submitted a representation to the State Police Chief requesting for action. A preliminary inquiry was ordered by the State Police Chief. The survivor and her husband were questioned and after evaluating the materials made available, a report was submitted before the State Police Chief that a cognizable offence was made out warranting registration of a crime.

In terms of the directions issued by the Supreme Court, the survivor was produced before the Magistrate and her statement was recorded under Section 164 of the CrPC. In the said statement, the survivor narrated the sequence of events and the details of sexual abuse to which she was subjected to by the accused.

According to the woman’s statement, she was subjected to sexual abuse by the appellant from November 1999 onwards on a false promise to marry her. The sexual abuse continued until the marriage of the appellant to another lady in 2002. They did not maintain any contact until 2005 when the survivor met the appellant and she was asked to come to a School at Thiruvalla, where the appellant was working.

It is her allegation that she was threatened by the appellant to expose her if she was not prepared to heed his wishes to have a relationship. She claims that she was subjected to sexual abuse inside the School where he was working. The interaction between both of them continued even after her marriage in 2006 and after her pregnancy. It lasted until the year 2017.

The second accused in the case is a Vicar of a nearby Church and the survivor is alleged to have divulged her relationship with the appellant during confession. She alleges that she was summoned by the second accused and she was threatened that the contents of the confession would be revealed to her husband. Under the said threat, sexual favours were sought from her. It is alleged that the survivor was subject to sexual abuse on more than one occasion.

Similarly, two other priests also sexually harassed her. Accused 1, 2 and 4 moved the Kerala High Court for anticipatory bail which was rejected on July 11. Accused 1 has now approached the Supreme Court against the said order.

It is the contention of the appellant that the prosecutrix has not alleged about rape in her affidavit which was given by her husband to the Bishop. Further, he has also contended that assuming without accepting that the allegations are true, no case of rape is made out since the sexual relationship was consensual.

The matter is likely to be mentioned on Monday, July 16 for urgent hearing.

Read the Kerala High Court order below. 

Father-Sony-Varghese-v.-State-of-Kerala-order.pdf
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