18 February 2019, The Tablet

Indian Catholic priest jailed for 20 years for rape

Two doctors and four nuns accused of not reporting a crime and assisting in the destruction of evidence were acquitted

Indian Catholic priest jailed for 20 years for rape

File Photo, Indian activists protest a rape incident in New Delhi, India, Feb. 21, 2017
CNS photo/Rajat Gupta, EPA

A Catholic priest in India has been found guilty of raping a minor and sentenced to 20 years in jail.

On 16 February, a court in Thalassery in Kerala, southern India, convicted Father Robin Vadakkumchery of Mananthavady Diocese of rape of a minor under the provisions of the Indian Penal Code and with violating sections of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act. He will serve a 20-year sentence.

The court also fined the priest 300,000 rupees (£3,250) and ruled that half would be used as compensation for the victim.

A spokesperson for the Mananthavady Diocese said they welcomed the ruling.

Fr Vadakkumchery was serving as a parish priest near Kannur and was the manager of the Church-backed-school, where the victim, a 16 year-old girl, was studying.

A Childline agency that works with school children registered the complaint against the priest.

Fr Vadakkumchery was arrested on 28 February last year near Kochi International airport weeks after the girl gave birth to his child. The priest is said to have been attempting to flee the country. 

Diocesan priest Father John Therakom, who was chairman of the district’s Child Welfare Committee, two doctors at the hospital and four nuns were accused of not reporting a crime and assisting in the destruction of evidence.

The court exonerated them on 16 February for lack of evidence.

However, local media has reported that police plan to take their cases against those exonerated to higher courts.

During the trial the Catholic parents of the girl claimed she was above the legal age of 18.

The victim herself then told the court that she and the priest had mutually consented to have sex as two adults.

During police investigations the girl’s biological father also claimed to have raped and impregnated his own daughter in an attempt to exonerate the priest.

However, police conducted a DNA test on the baby finding the priest to be the biological father. They also produced the girl’s birth records proving she was below 17 years old, a minor according to Indian law.

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