The Kerala High Court on Thursday granted bail to a Catholic priest and a nun convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of 21-year-old Sister Abhaya whose body was found in the well of a convent in Kottayam in 1992.
A Bench of Justices K Vinod Chandran and C Jayachandran suspended the execution of the sentences of Father Thomas Kottoor and Sister Sephy and granted them bail subject to each of them furnishing a bond of Rs 5 lakh.
The Bench said,”On a prima facie look at the evidence as pointed out by the defence, and not effectively countered by the prosecution, we cannot but release the two accused, as an interim measure, suspending their sentence till the disposal of the appeal.” The observation came in view of “lack of explanation” from the prosecution side on various aspects of the case like how the murder weapon was initially said to be an axe and later was termed as a hand-axe in the remand report.
The High Court further said it was not going to rely on the evidence given by a medical expert, relied upon by the prosecution, regarding cause of death as he had authored a report saying that cause of death was drowning and later said that injuries on the head of the victim were capable of causing death.
The Bench was of the view that his opinions were one-sided and “not necessarily truthful.” While the High Court pointed out these lacunae and others in the prosecution case, it also termed as “bizarre” the explanation of the accused that the victim had committed suicide.
The Knanaya Sabha Pastoral Council secretary Binoy welcomed the High Court order and said that while it was delayed, he was thankful to God for the same.
The secretary of the council, speaking to reporters to Kottayam after the order came, said the two convicts were innocent.
The secretary said what Abhaya Case Action Council convener Jomon Puthenpurackal said regarding the case was not true. “Everyone knows how credible he is and the Knanaya community believes the case was fabricated,” he said.
After the order came, Puthenpurackal, speaking to reporters outside the court, claimed that the CBI did not argue the case properly in the High Court.
He alleged that a lawyer not acquainted with the case and who did not know Malayalam was brought from Telangana to argue the case on behalf of CBI and was unable to answer queries of the High Court.
He alleged that no one could be faulted for thinking that CBI deliberately took a stand that would help the convicts get bail in the case.
He further alleged that CBI not filing a counter affidavit for more than a year since the convicts moved the appeals indicates that it probably succumbed to pressure.
The CBI appeared disinterested and failed to convince the court not to grant any relief to the convicts, he alleged.
The High Court order came in an application seeking bail filed by them in their respective appeals challenging their conviction and life imprisonment by a special CBI court in the murder case.
The other conditions imposed on the convicts by the High Court were that for the first six months after release, the two convicts shall report before the SHO concerned on every Saturday at 11.00 AM and thereafter, on every second Saturday and they shall not leave the State without the permission of the court.
First, the local police and then the crime branch investigated and concluded that it was a case of suicide.
The CBI took over the investigation into the case in 2008 and the trial in the case began on August 26, 2019 and many witnesses turned hostile.
According to the prosecution, Abhaya was attacked with the handle of an axe because she was witness to some alleged immoral activity involving the three accused.
Then, Abhayas body was found in the well of the St. Pious convent at Kottayam in Kerala on March 27, 1992.
Abhaya, a second year student of BCM College, Kottayam, was staying at the convent and according to the prosecution, she witnessed an illicit relationship allegedly between the two convicts and Fr Jose Puthrikkayil following which they hacked her with an axe and threw her into the well.
Puthrikkayil was discharged from the case due to lack of evidence.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by The Federal staff and is auto-published from a syndicated feed.)