Father Robin Vadakkanchery, a Kerala church priest who was the main accused in a minor girl’s rape case in Kottiyoor, Kerala, was sentenced to 20 years of rigorous imprisonment on Saturday (15 February).
The priest was found guilty of charges of raping and impregnating a minor girl by the additional district sessions court in Thalassery, Kannur, which is the designated court for hearing POSCO Act cases, on Saturday.
The court also ordered criminal proceedings against the victim's parents. The girl's custody has been given to Legal Services Society. The other six accused have been acquitted.
Robin Vadakkancery, vicar of St Sebastian Parish in Kottiyoor, which is under the Catholic diocese of Manathavady, was arrested on 28 February 2017 for raping the 16-year-old girl in May 2016. He was also the manager of a church-run school at the time of the incident. Police said the girl was raped several times in the priest's room.
The sordid case came in to light after the minor girl delivered a baby at the Christu Raj Hospital in Thokkilangadi in the second week of February.
Robin Vadakkancery "donated" money to the hospital as a reward for not reporting the incident to the police. The hospital administrator then agreed to admit the girl, while gynaecologist Dr Tessy and Nellayani Thankamma assisted the delivery.
After the minor girl gave birth, it was alleged that Dr Hyderali, a paediatrician at the hospital, is said to have allowed the baby to be discharged. The minor girl continued to get medical assistance for two days before she was allowed to return home.
According to initial police accounts, Nellayali Thankamma, Dr Liz Maria and Sister Anita from Christu Dasi convent in Wayanad took the baby from the hospital to an orphanage in Wayanad with Sister Anita driving a Maruti Eeco car to the orphanage.
Robin Vadakkancery, didn't stop at that. When the police registered a case, he coerced the victim’s father (a poor farm labourer) to falsely admit to having raped his own daughter and fathered another kid in the process.
During the initial interrogation, the 16-year-old girl's father admitted to raping his daughter and the girl also admitted the same. However, it was on the basis of secret information received by the NGO Childline, Robin Vadakkumchery was arrested.
During the course of the court proceedings, victim as well as her family had turned hostile. However, the prosecution relied on the statement of the government doctor and established that the girl was a minor and that the sexual relation, even if it had the minor's consent, could only be considered a rape.
Other accused in the case - Thankamma, Sister Lis Maria of Christudas convent, Sister Anita of Kallumutty convent, Father Thomas Joseph Therakam, former chairman of Wayanad Child Welfare Committee (CWC), Dr Sr Betty Jose, a CWC member, and Sr Ophelia, the superintendent of the Holy Infant Mary Mandiram, Vythiri - were acquitted by the court.
Church-owned media outfits resorted to openly blaming and shaming the rape survivor
A Catholic newspaper, Sunday Shalom, had this to say in an editorial,
“...the partner in the sin is more than 15 years old. Considering her in my daughter’s position I am saying, daughter you too went wrong. You will be the first one answerable before god. Why did you forget who a priest was? Why didn’t you know that the sanctity of a priest is equal to the holiness of Jesus’s heart. He has a human body, he can get temptations. If he might have forgot that for a few seconds, my child who has taken the holy communion, why didn’t you stop or correct him?”