The Kerala High Court today rejected the anticipatory bail petitions of three priests of a church accused of raping a woman, ruling that the charges against them were serious and the relief, if granted at an early stage of investigation, will adversely affect its progress.
The priests–Abraham Varghese alias Sony, Job Mathew and Jaise K George– had approached the court soon after the crime branch of Kerala Police slapped rape charges against four of the five Malankara Syrian Orthodox Church priests, who were accused of sexually exploiting the victim.
Dismissing their bail pleas, Justice R Vijayaraghavan of the Kochi bench of the court said allegations against them were serious and that their release at a time when the probe was at a preliminary stage would hamper its progress.
Earlier, the court had directed police to produce before it the complaint of sexual harassment of the woman filed by her husband and other documents related to the case.
In their bail applications, the priests had rejected the woman’s allegations of sexually assaulting her.
They claimed the case was registered against them solely “under political pressure exerted by certain vested interests to derive political mileage”.
The crime branch registered an FIR against four priests, including the three whose pre-arrest bail petitions were rejected today, after recording the alleged victim’s statement.
The woman’s husband had last month accused five priests of using his wife’s secret confession to “blackmail and sexually abuse” her. The name of the fifth clergyman was not included for want of substantial evidence.
The incident came to light after an audio clip of the purported conversation of the husband of the alleged victim with a church official about the sexual abuse of his wife by the priests was widely circulated on social media.
Veteran CPI(M) leader and chairman of the Kerala Administrative Reforms Commission V S Achuthanandan and the National Commission for Women had written to the state police chief, Loknath Behara, seeking a thorough probe.