Pope Francis expels rape convict Kerala priest Robin Vadakkumchery

Pope Francis expels Kerala priest Robin Vadakkumchery convicted of rape
Robin was suspended from priestly duties soon after the news about his crime was reported in early 2017.

Kochi: Keralite Catholic priest Robin Vadakkumchery, convicted of rape, has been defrocked. Pope Francis expelled Vadakkumchery from all priestly duties and rights, sending out a stern message that it would not harbour proven offenders.

Syro-Malabar Church priest Robin is currently serving a jail term for impregnating a 16-year-old girl at Kottiyoor in Kerala's Kannur district.

"Vadakkumchery has been dispensed from the exercise of priestly duties and rights. That means he has been reduced to the state of a layman", a Mananthavady diocese official said on Sunday.

He was suspended from priestly duties soon after the news about his crime was reported in early 2017.

Last year a POCSO court in Thalassery had sentenced Robin to a total of 60 years rigorous imprisonment (20 years each on three counts as per the POCSO Act (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act) and slapped a fine of Rs 3 lakh on him. However, he would serve only for 20 years in prison as the terms would run concurrently.

The girl's parents also faced criminal proceedings for covering up the case.

The case

The rape case from Kottiyoor came to light after the victim delivered a baby boy on February 7, 2017, at Christuraja hospital in Koothuparamba in Kannur. The child was taken to an adoption centre in Vythiri, Wayanad.

After the Childline India officials intimated the police, a case was registered on February 27, 2017, by the Peravoor police.

When the police questioned, the 16-year-old girl's father admitted that his daughter was sexually assaulted. The girl's statement also backed this claim. However, it was on the basis of secret information received at the NGO Childline that Fr Robin was arrested.

Robin, who was the vicar of the local church at Kottiyoor in Kannur district, was arrested on February 28, 2017.

The Kerala High Court had on March 14, 2017, directed Fr Thomas Joseph Therakam, former chairman of Wayanad Child Welfare Committee (CWC), CWC member Dr Sr Betty Jose and Sr Ophelia, the superintendent of the Holy Infant Mary Mandiram, Vythiri, and one Thangamma, a midwife, also accused in the case, to surrender before the investigating officers within five days.

Fr Therakam, Betty and Sr Ophelia, charged with covering up the rape of a minor girl, surrendered before the investigating officer on March 17, 2017.

Though 10 people were initially arrested in the case, two doctors and an administrator of the hospital were later removed from the list of accused after they approached the Supreme Court. The six other accused - Sr Lis Maria of Christudas convent, Sr Anita of Kallumutty convent, Fr Therakam, Betty, and Sr Ophelia have been acquitted.

The trial in the case commenced in the POCSO court, Thalassery, on August 1, 2017.

The officials of the orphanage had alleged that the CWC did not take any action even though they had informed it about the case of a newborn brought there on February 8, a day after the infant was brought there.

Witnesses turned hostile

The victim as well as her family had turned hostile in the case. However, the prosecution relied on the the statement of the government doctor.

As it was established that the girl was a minor, any sexual relation, even if it had the minor's consent, could only be considered a rape, it contended.

The statement of the doctor turned out to be crucial as the victim as well as the CWC turned hostile and gave statements in favour of Fr Robin.

The POCSO special court commended the foolproof investigation carried out by the investigation officer and then Peravoor CI Sunil Kumar.

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