Kerala High Court sentences priest, nun to life imprisonment in Abhaya murder case

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The Kerala High Court on Thursday granted bail to a Catholic priest and a nun and sentenced them to life imprisonment for the murder of 21-year-old sister Abhaya, whose body was found in a well in a convent in Kottayam in 1992.

A bench of Justices K Vinod Chandran and C Jayachandran stayed the sentence of Father Thomas Kottur and Sister Sefi and granted them bail, provided both of them furnished surety of Rs 5 lakh each.

The bench said, “Prima facie view of the evidence put forth by the defence, and not effectively contested by the prosecution, we cannot release the two accused as an interim measure, their sentence till the disposal of the appeal.” has been suspended.”

The observation came in the wake of “lack of explanation” from the prosecution on various aspects of the case, such as how the murder weapon was initially called an ax and later in the remand report it was called a hand ax.

The High Court further held that it would not rely on the evidence given by a medical expert with regard to the cause of death, which was relied upon by the prosecution as he had written a report stating that the cause of death was drowning. and later said that the injuries to the victim’s head were capable of causing death.

The Bench was of the view that their opinion was one sided and “not necessarily true”.

While the High Court pointed out these shortcomings and others in the prosecution case, it also termed the accused’s explanation as “bizarre” that the victim had committed suicide.

Binoy, secretary of the Kannaya Sabha Dehati Parishad, welcomed the high court’s order and said that despite the delay, he was grateful to God for it.

Speaking to reporters in Kottayam after the order came, the secretary of the council said that both the culprits are innocent. The secretary said that what Jomon Puthenpurkal, convenor of the Abhaya Case Action Council, had said about the case was not true.

“Everyone knows how credible he is and the Kanaya community believes that the matter was concocted,” he said.

After the order came, Puthenpurakkal, while talking to reporters outside the court, claimed that the CBI had not properly debated the matter in the High Court.

He alleged that a lawyer who was not familiar with the matter and who did not know Malayalam, was brought from Telangana to argue the case on behalf of the CBI and was unable to answer the questions of the High Court.

He alleged that one cannot be blamed for thinking that the CBI deliberately took a stand so that the convicts in the case could get bail.

He further alleged that the CBI has not filed the counter-affidavit for more than a year as the convicts have filed an appeal, indicating that it may have succumbed to pressure.

He alleged that the CBI appeared indifferent and failed to convince the court to not provide any relief to the convicts.

The high court’s order came on an application seeking bail filed by them in their respective appeals challenging their conviction and life imprisonment in a murder case by a special CBI court.

Other conditions imposed by the High Court on the convicts were that for the first six months after their release, both the convicts would report every Saturday at 11.00 am before the concerned SHO and thereafter on every second Saturday and they would be out of the state. Won’t go without the permission of the court.

First the local police and then the crime branch investigated and concluded that it was a case of suicide.

The CBI took over the investigation of the case in 2008 and the trial of the case started on 26 August 2019 and many witnesses turned hostile.

According to the prosecution, Abhaya was attacked with an ax handle as she was a witness to some alleged immoral activities involving the three accused.

Then, Abhaya’s body was found on 27 March 1992 in the well of St. Pius Convent in Kottayam, Kerala.

Abhaya, a second year student of BCM College in Kottayam, was living in the convent and according to the prosecution, she allegedly witnessed an illicit relationship between the two convicts and Father Jose Puthrikayil, after which they chopped her up with an ax and threw her inside. Gave. thoroughly.

Puthrikayil was acquitted of the case for want of evidence.

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