Kerala High Court grants conditional bail to Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church priest in rape case
Justice V Rajavijaya Raghavan ordered Job Mathew to appear before the investigating officer twice a week.
The Kerala High Court on Wednesday granted conditional bail to Job Mathew, a Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church priest who was arrested on July 12 from Kollam, in connection with a rape and molestation case. He had been arrested on charges of sexually assaulting a 34-year-old woman.
Justice V Rajavijaya Raghavan ordered Mathew to appear before the investigating officer twice a week, and warned him against influencing witnesses or tampering with the evidence, PTI reported. The court also directed the priest not to leave the country.
Mathew is the second accused in the case. Three weeks ago, the Kerala Police Crime Branch had booked four priests of the church on charges of rape and molestation. On July 11, the Kerala High Court dismissed anticipatory bail pleas filed by three of them, including Mathew.
The priests have been accused of blackmailing and sexually abusing the woman for three years. In a letter to the church in June, the woman’s husband claimed that the priests used his wife’s confession, which is meant to be a secret under church laws, to blackmail her. He named eight people in the letter and sought action against them.
Following the allegations, the church sent the priests on leave.
KERALA HC GRANTS BAIL TO ANOTHER ACCUSED PRIEST
The Kerala High Court on Wednesday granted bail to Fr Job Mathew, one of the four Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church priests accused of sexually exploiting a young woman by blackmailing her using her confession secret. The High Court had granted bail to Fr Johnson V Mathew, another priest accused in the case, on Monday.
Fr Job Mathew, second accused in the case, was granted bail just when the trial court in Thiruvalla, Pathanamthitta was to pronounce its verdict on an application filed by the special team of the Kerala Police’s Crime Branch investigating the case for getting his custody for further questioning.
The priest, belonging to the Niranam Diocese of the Orthodox Church, is accused of raping the woman by threatening to reveal her Confession secret to her husband. According to the victim, she had revealed to him in confession that another priest, Fr Abraham Varghese, first accused in the case, had sexually exploited her before her marriage.
The court granted bail to Fr Job Mathew under the conditions that he should surrender his passport, appear before the investigators twice a week and he should not try to influence the victim, her family or other witnesses. These were the conditions of the bail of third accused Fr Johnson V Mathew, belonging to the Church’s Thumpamon diocese too.
When the Crime Branch opposed Fr Job Mathew’s bail plea saying that its application for his custody was pending before the trial court, his counsel submitted that there were no more recoveries to be made in the case and that the priest was ready to appear before the investigators whenever asked to do so. Bail was granted to him following this.
With this, the Crime Branch’s plan to question all the accused priests together in a session has collapsed completely. The anticipatory bail applications of the other two rape-accused priests, first accused Fr Abraham Varghese (Sony) of the Church’s Niranam Diocese and fourth accused Fr Jaise K George of the Delhi Diocese, are pending before the Supreme Court.
Fr Job Mathew had surrendered before the Crime Branch team on July 12 after his anticipatory bail application was turned down by the High Court the previous day.
As per the victim’s statements to the Crime Branch and before a Magistrate, first accused Fr Abraham Varghese, who was her neighbour then, had sexually exploited her first in 1999 when she was only 17 and unmarried by promising to marry her and he had continued to exploit her even after her marriage by threatening to disclose the matter to her husband.