Thiruvananthapuram: Father Robin Vadakkanchery, the main accused in a minor girl’s rape case in Kottiyoor, Kerala, was sentenced to 20 years of rigorous imprisonment on Saturday.
The priest was found guilty by the additional district sessions court in Thalassery, Kannur, which is the designated court for hearing POSCO Act cases, on Saturday.
Six others, who were named in the case, were acquitted.
Vadakkancery, vicar of St Sebastian Parish in Kottiyoor, which is under the catholic diocese of Manathavady, was taken into custody on February 28, 2017 for raping the 16-year-old girl in May 2016.
He was also the manager of a church-run school at the time of the incident. Police said the girl was raped several times in the priest's room.
The matter came to light after the girl delivered a baby at the Christu Raj Hospital in Thokkilangadi in the second week of February.
An attempt to shift the baby to a childcare home under the church in Wayanad got leaked to children’s welfare group, Childline.
Soon after, a case was registered by Peravoor police and on February 28, 2017, Vadakkancery was arrested. Some more arrests were made in March.
On August 1, the Supreme Court discharged sister Tessy Jose, a gynaecologist, sister Ancy Mathew of a private hospital and pediatrician Hyder Ali from facing trial in the case.
The suspects were slapped with charges under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POSCO).
In August, however, the girl and her parents turned hostile, wherein the girl told the court that she was a major at the time of the incident and the relationship was consensual. After that, the court declared her ‘hostile’.
Special public prosecutor Beena Kaliyath said," This is a landmark judgment. The girl and her family had all turned hostile. They might have been under immense pressure, but we were able to produce the documents and prove that she was a minor at the time she gave birth."
The trial was completed in December 2018.