Allowing the plea of rape convict Robin Vadakkumcheriyil, ex-priest of Catholic Church, to suspend the sentence to marry the rape survivor will set a bad precedent, an activist and a Christian feminist organization have filed an application in the High Court of Kerala.
The applicants, Goerge Pulikuthiyil, an advocate-activist and Brinelle D’souza, founding and core committee member of Voices Against Sexual Abuse in the Church (VASAC) stated that, if Robin’s bail application is allowed, then it will set a bad example and open the door for many such men to force or coerce their victims into a compromise in order to escape the rigours of law
“The relief at this stage citing his desire to marry the victim, it will open the door for many such men who commit the offence of rape or aggravated sexual assault to force or coerce their victims into a compromise in order to escape the rigours of law. Such practices have been categorically looked down upon by the Hon’ble Supreme Court, and must not be encouraged in any judicial proceeding or stage”, stated the impleading application filed in the criminal appeal filed by Robin.
“It is submitted that this Hon’ble Court must disallow the Appellant’s attempt at a notional marriage by rejecting the prayer for interim bail, as the same would not be in the interest of justice and would result in an abuse of the process of court”, the plea stated.
“Given the skewed power dynamics and the nature and history of the case, the possibility of the victim’s consent being vitiated by fear, intimidation or trauma cannot be ruled out – an apprehension that received judicial recognition by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in Shimbhu (Supra). In view of the same, it is submitted that this Hon’ble Court must disallow the Appellant’s attempt at a notional marriage by rejecting the prayer for interim bail, as the same would not be in the interest of justice and would result in an abuse of the process of court”, said the plea.
The application further stated that the accused is in his fifties and there exists a considerable age difference between the accused and the victim. Also, the accused was a Vicar, who enjoyed unparalleled patronage and support within the local community, especially among the believers in the congregation. If the bail is allowed, the accused will influence the victim, who is studying outside the state of Kerala , alleged the applicants.
The applicants stated that the convict has shown no compassion towards the victim; instead, he utilised his power and authority to influence the rape victim and efface the evidence for his own benefit during the trial.
“The trial court has categorically arrived at the finding that the prosecutrix was a minor at the time of the incident of rape / aggravated sexual assault. The Appellant, now in his 50s, was in a position of such authority and control that out of fear of the consequences of telling the truth, the victim had to falsely accuse her father of rape, and the parents of the victim also deposed falsely in court regarding the prosecutrix’s age. There is nothing on record to demonstrate that the Appellant ever cared about the prosecutrix or her well being. The subterfuge being attempted by the Appellant in camouflaging the interest to avoid his stay in prison as a sign of love must not be allowed to pass, as the same would be a mockery of justice”, the plea stated.
Supreme Court’s observations
The applicants asserted that any leniency shown towards a rape convict on account of his offer to marry the victim is anathema to law and has no place inside courtrooms.