Retired Supreme Court Justice Cyriac Joseph Tried To Scuttle Sister Abhaya Case, Alleges Whistleblower

Retired Supreme Court Justice Cyriac Joseph Tried To Scuttle Sister Abhaya Case, Alleges Whistleblower Cyriac Joseph
Snapshot
  • Cyriac Joseph has also allegedly played a role in the transfer of a chief judicial magistrate V T Raghunath, who insisted on visiting the convent where Sister Abhaya’s body was found in a well, rejecting the initial findings of the CBI.

Retired Supreme Court judge Cyriac Joseph had tried to derail Kerala’s sensational Sister Abhaya murder case in which a Catholic priest Thomas M Kottoor and a nun Sephy have been sentenced to life for the crime, a whistle-blower and one of the key witnesses in the case, Jomon Puthenpurackal has alleged.

The former judge had tried to sabotage the case from the beginning, when he was the State’s additional advocate general, Puthenpurackal said, adding that he had intervened many a time since Kottoor was his relative.

The role of Cyriac Joseph, who was elevated as a Kerala High Court judge in 1994, came into scrutiny 2008 when he was the Karnataka High Court Chief Justice. He was reportedly seen in Bengaluru’s Narco Analysis Lab, where results of an analysis done on Kottoor and Sephy were available.

Kottoor and Sephy were arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and taken to Bengaluru for the analysis.

The CBI complained to the Kerala High Court that the Karnataka High Court Chief Justice saw the narco analysis tapes of the accused. It was during this time that Syriac Thomas was elevated as a Supreme Court judge.

Then Supreme Court Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan, who also hails from Kerala, headed a bench that ruled the narco analysis test “null and void”.

Cyriac Joseph has also allegedly played a role in the transfer of a chief judicial magistrate V T Raghunath, who insisted on visiting the convent where Sister Abhaya’s body was found in a well, rejecting the initial findings of the CBI.

The Sister Abhaya verdict came 28 years after her body was found mysteriously in a well in the Pious Tenth Convent, Kottayam, on 27 March 1992. It was the longest-running murder probe in Kerala.

The verdict came despite over hundred witnesses turning hostile. The court observed that the prosecution witnesses, who withstood the pressure to change their versions, were strong and convincing to convict Kottoor and Sephy.

Sister Abhaya case was a sensational one in Kerala, going through many twists and turns. Along with Kottoor and Sephy, another priest Jose Poothrikkayil was also accused but he was acquitted by the trial court.

Abhaya was a second-year pre-degree student of Kottayam BCM College and a resident of Pius X convent in Kottayam at the time of her death. Kottoor was the psychology professor at the college, besides being the chancellor of the Kottayam diocese.

Re-investigations were ordered thrice in the Sister Abhaya case as the court refused to accept the conclusion of the probe team, including by the CBI which said it was unable to pinpoint the murderers.

Based on the third probe, Kottoor, Poothrikkayil and Sephy were arrested on 19 November 2008.

The prosecution charge was that Abhaya was hit with an axe and then dumped in the well of the convent. Sephy resorted to this step of hitting Abhaya as she had accidentally witnessed the former in a “compromising position” with the two priests.

M.R. Subramani is Executive Editor, Swarajya. He tweets @mrsubramani

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