New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday orally observed that instances of some priests in Kerala being involved in rape cases are shocking. It is disturbing that cases of rape and sexual assault come from churches in Kerala recently, the court said.
A bench of Justices A K Sikri and Ashok Bhushan made these observations during the hearing of a case involving rape of a minor in a church by a Father in Kotiyoor in Malabar district of Kerala in 2016. The minor girl gave birth to a child in 2017 and immediately the child was handed over to a foundling home.
“As a lawyer, I have seen these cases of teenage pregnancies”, Justice Sikri added.
The Kerala police registered a case against the Father, doctors who did the surgery of the minor girl and the administrators of the foundling home. The Father is in custody and the case is on trial in a lower court in Kerala.
The state of Kerala through senior counsel K N Balagopal and Vipin Nair argued that the accused number 3, Gynaecologist (Dr Sr Tessy Jose), accused number 4 Paediatrician (Hyder Ali) and accused number 5 administrator (Ancy Mathew) were also directly involved in the trafficking of the infant because they knew from the beginning that Father Robin (accused number 1) has raped the victim when she was a minor and hence after the infant was born, the hospital wanted to cover it up for the accused number 1.
It was also argued that as per the charge sheet, the aforesaid accused had this knowledge, as there were telephonic conversations between the doctors and the other accused persons. It was also asserted that the doctors had directed the victim’s mother not to reveal the details of the offence to anyone.
Senior counsel R Basant, who appeared for the two doctors and the administrator sought for the discharge of the three accused from the trial under the POCSO Act. He argued that these three accused had no direct link with the offence and that they should be discharged.
Agreeing with Basant, the bench observed that there is no direct link or chain of events that could be directed towards the doctors to be prosecuted within the provisions of section 19 of the POCSO Act.
The court said it was also considering the larger issue. If the doctors are also included in the offences under the POCSO Act, knowingly or unknowingly, it would set a wrong precedent and could create a situation where they don’t provide timely medical assistance. Therefore, the bench said it could not find a prima facie evidence, which would seriously raise doubt over the conduct of accused number 3, 4 and 5 as far as POCSO is concerned and dropped the proceedings against them.
The court however refused to discharge the two other accused Father Thomas Therakan A9 (Chairman, Child Welfare Committee) and Sister Betty Jose A10 (Member) after the state pointed out that they had knowledge that the baby was kept in the Foundling Home and had not taken any steps to surrender the child under the Juvenile Justice Act and also permitted the accused number 8 to illegally keep the child away from his mother from February 7, 2017, to February 19, 2017.
Kerala said when the news regarding the offence by accused number 1 was out the accused number 9 and 10 prepared the surrender deed. Thereby they committed the offence punishable under sections 201, 120 B, 166 A, 118, 119 r/w section 34 of the IPC, section 19(1) r/w section 21(1), section 16 r/w section 17 of POCSO Act and Section 75 of the Juvenile Justice Act.
The court observed that there exists a serious doubt on the conduct of the accused number 9 and 10 because the facts also complimented the charges against these accused.
The court dismissed their appeal....