The Kerala High Court on Thursday (June 23) granted bail to a Catholic priest and a nun convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of 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 ₹5 lakh.
Also read: Abhaya case: Justice at last after 28 years of conspiracies, probes, intrigues
“The instant case evoked a lot of public outrage and the initial inference of suicide and repeated requests made by the investigating agencies to close the case as untraceable, created a frenzy which put officers, men and institutions on the dock; often in the extended media trial,” the order said.
“On a prima facie look at the evidence as pointed out by the defense, 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 order added.
Also read: Abhaya murder: CBI court finds catholic priest, nun guilty after 28 years
“The petitioners shall not leave the State, other than with the permission of this Court,” the Kerala High Court said while laying down the conditions for the interim bail.
The 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.
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 of the case in 2008 and the trial in the case began on August 26, 2019, and many witnesses had 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 21-year-old Sister Abhaya’s 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 a lack of evidence.
(With inputs from agencies)