Kerala church rape case: Supreme Court asks two accused priests to surrender by August 13

The court said that the two priests could seek regular bail after surrendering

The Supreme Court on Monday ordered two priests accused of sexually assaulting a woman in Kerala to surrender by August 13. It also cancelled their interim protection from arrest, saying they could seek regular bail after surrendering, reported PTI.

Justices AK Sikri and Ashok Bhushan passed the order after the complainant’s lawyer said that the accused had uploaded a video online to blackmail her. The Supreme Court said the matter could be raised before a trial court, which will hear the bail plea on the same day, reported Bar and Bench.

The court on July 27 had asked the Kerala Police to file a status report within two weeks on the investigation into the charges of sexual abuse against four Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church priests accused of raping and molesting a 34-year-old woman by using her confessional statement.

On July 19, the Supreme Court had granted Father Sony Verghese and Father Jaise K George protection from arrest by till it pronounced a verdict on their anticipatory bail pleas. The two had moved court for anticipatory bail after their plea was rejected by the Kerala High Court on July 11.

Earlier, the National Commission of Women had recommended that the practice of confessions in churches should be abolished. 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.

“The priests pressure women into telling their secrets and we have one such case in front of us, there must be many more such cases and what we have right now is just a tip of the iceberg,” Acting National Commission for Women Chief Rekha Sharma said.