The Kerala High Court on Wednesday reduced the quantum of sentence awarded to former Catholic priest Robin Vadakkuncheril who is undergoing 20 years of rigorous imprisonment in a sensational case pertaining to raping and impregnating a minor Catholic girl in 2016.
Considering the review petition of the former priest, a bench of Justice Narayana Pisharadi reduced the term of rigorous imprisonment from 20 years to ten years. The high court altered the charges from section 376 (1) to section 376 (2), which paved the way for reducing the RI from 20 years to 10.
Arrested in Feburary 2017, Vadakkuncheril has been jailed since then and already served nearly five years of the jail term.
In August this year, the rape survivor had moved a petition in the Supreme Court seeking permission to marry the former priest, who was defrocked after a trial court convicted him. Vadakkuncheril also had impleaded in the petition seeking bail to marry the girl. Before the victim approached the apex court, the convicted priest had moved the high court seeking permission to marry the victim.
The sensational case known as “Kottiyoor rape case” had come to fore in February 2017 when the minor girl gave birth to a baby in a hospital in Kannur district. Vadakkuncheril had abused the minor girl while serving as a parish priest under Mananthavady Catholic diocese in Kerala. The issue came to fore only after the girl gave birth to the baby. Under duress from the priest, the victim’s father had confessed to police that he had impregnated her own daughter. But, within a few days, police arrested the priest while he was trying to fly out of the country, apparently to Canada.
During the trial, the victim and her family had turned hostile. The victim had claimed that she had sexual relation with the priest with her consent. However, the POCSO court in Thalassery in Kannur had found that the girl was a minor at the time of the incident.
In February, 2019, the trial court sentenced Vadakkumcherry to 20 years of rigorous imprisonment and a fine of Rs 2 lakh. Six other accused — Thangamma Nelliyani, Wayanad Child Welfare Committee (CWC) Chairman Fr Thomas Joseph Therakam, CWC committee member Sister Betty Jose and Superintendent of an orphanage in Wayanad Sister Ophelia, along with Sister Liss Mariya and Sister Anita — were acquitted. They had been arraigned as accused for their alleged role in the sexual exploitation and subsequent delivery of the baby by the girl.