Clergy sex abuse: High Court asks priests, nuns to surrender
By Matters India Reporter
Kochi: The Kerala High Court on March 14 asked a Catholic priest and two nuns, who are co-accused in a clergy sex abuse case, to surrender before an investigation officer.
Father Thomas Therakam, Sisters Ophelia and Betty Jose and lay woman Thankamma Nelliyani had approached the court for anticipatory bail after a priest of Mananthavady diocese was arrested on February 28 for abusing a minor girl.
The girl on February 6 delivered a baby boy in a Church hospital in Koothuparamba. The child was later shifted to a fondling home at Vythiri in Wayanad district, some 105 km southeast of Koothuparamba.
The court gave the four five days to surrender, and asked the police to produce before the court on the same day and given conditional bail on 30,000-rupee bonds. The court observed that the cases slapped against them are bailable. Most charges will not stand, it added. However, the court asked the police to seize their passports and asked them to appear before the investigation officer every Monday and Friday for the next three months.
Father Therakam was the director of Child Welfare Committee of Wayanad where Sister Jose was the woman member. The committee is the sole authority to deal with matters concerning children in need of care and protection. Such committees are set up for every district. Each committee has a chairperson and four other members, one of them a woman.
On March 6, the Kerala government removed Father Therakam and Sister Jose from the Wayanad committee for allegedly tampering with the records in the minor abuse case to protect the arrested priest.
Earlier, the diocese of Mananthavady removed Father Therakam from the post of its public relations officer.
Sister Ophelia is the director of a foundling home where the minor’s girl’s child was shifted after its delivery on February 6.
The girl was allegedly impregnated by Father Robin Vadakkumcherry, vicar of St Sebastian’s Church in Kottiyoor and the manager of the school where she attended eleventh grade.
Earlier on March 10, the Additional Sessions Court in Tellicherry handed over Father Vadakkumcherry to the police for four-day interrogation.
Police had registered a case against Father Therakam and the nuns for violating rules in admitting the baby in the orphanage
Following the controversy, the government had disbanded the CWC and appointed new office bearers.
Investigating officers, who visited the hospital and the orphanage, had reportedly found discrepancies. The police have registered cases under Protection of Child Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act and Juvenile Justice Act.