Kochi: A special court in Kochi on Thursday awarded life term to Fr Edwin Figarez, 41, a Catholic priest who raped a 14-year-old girl multiple times between January to March, 2015, while he was the vicar of Lourdes Matha Church, Puthenvelikkara. The girl’s mother alleged that the priest abused her daughter when she went to the church for confession. The additional district and sessions court also invoked the POCSO Act (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act) while observing “the priest misused his position as a vicar for the church" and awarded double rigorous imprisonment for life "which shall mean imprisonment for the remainder of his natural life".
The court also observed that he had not only assaulted the girl "but also betrayed the believers of the church". "It is pertinent to note that the priest went to the extent trying to discredit the girl by saying she was of a bad character," the court said. Stressing that the accused doesn't deserve any leniency, the court observed, "He deserved maximum punishment prescribed by law and it should have a deterrent effect." A fine of Rs 2,15,000 was also imposed on Fr Figarez. The fine should be given to the victim and the court also suggested the state award more compensation. "A vicar of a church is held in high esteem by public. He should be a model for believers and people. He is expected to live a life that is worthy of emulation by others. Contrary to that the accused has misused his position,” the court said.
For helping the priest to abscond, Silvester Figarez, the 58-year-old brother of the priest was sentenced to one year simple imprisonment. The court, however, let off the gynaecologist, Dr Ajitha, of a government hospital, who examined the girl while she was taken to hospital by her mother following the incidents of sexual assault. The court found that the doctor was just following the requests of the victim's mother. She was charged for not reporting the crime to police. The mother of the victim lodged a complaint and deposed before the police that the vicar raped her daughter during January to March in 2015.