19 Jan 2021 11:46 AM GMT
The Kerala High Court has admitted the appeal filed by Father Thomas Kottoor against his conviction and sentence in the murder of Sister Abhaya in 1992.A division bench comprising Justices K Vinod Chandran and M R Anitha has issued notice to CBIKottoor was sentenced to life by the Special CBI Court, Thiruvnanathapuram on December 23.He argues in the appeal that the trial court's judgment is...
The Kerala High Court has admitted the appeal filed by Father Thomas Kottoor against his conviction and sentence in the murder of Sister Abhaya in 1992.
A division bench comprising Justices K Vinod Chandran and M R Anitha has issued notice to CBI
Kottoor was sentenced to life by the Special CBI Court, Thiruvnanathapuram on December 23.
He argues in the appeal that the trial court's judgment is based on the "unconnected story circumstances culled out from unreliable solitary witnesses". It is contended that the trial court has not truly quoted the evidence in the judgment.
"The trial and conviction of the accused by the court below in all respects are vitiated by grave illegalities and irregularities", the appeal says.
The CBI Court had sentenced Kottoor and Sister Sephy for the murder of Sister Abhaya at St Pious Tenth Convent Hostel, Kottayam in 1992.
Special CBI Judge K Sanilkumar had found Kottoor and Sephy guilty of murder accepting the case of the Central Bureau of Investigation that Sister Abhaya was murdered by the convicts after she happened to witness their intimate exchanges inside the convent.
The CBI Court found them guilty of murder under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code and sentenced them to life imprisonment.The culprits were also imposed a fine of Rupees 5 lakh each under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code. Kottoor was also imposed an additional sentence of life and a fine of Rupees one lakh under Section 449 IPC(house-trespass in order to commit offence punishable with death).
The convicts were also awarded 7 years imprisonment and a fine of Rupees 50,000 each for the offence under Section 201 IPC(destruction of evidence). The sentences of imprisonment given to the convicts will run concurrently.
Sister Abhaya, a 20 year old novice, was found dead inside the well of St.Pious Xth Convent at Kottayam on March 27, 1992.
Father Kottoor, the first accused in the case, was a lecturer of Psychology at BCM College, Kottayam, where Sister Abhaya was a student. The second accused in the case, Father Jose Poothrikkayil, a lecturer of Malayalam in the same college, was discharged by the Court in 2019 citing lack of evidence against him. Sister Sephy was an inmate of St.Pious X Convent.
The local police and the crime branch of the Kerala Police initially closed the case as a suicide. After a lot of public outcry, the case was handed over to the CBI.
The CBI also could not make any headway in the case until 2008. Before that, different teams of the CBI had filed three closure reports in the case - in 1996, 1999 and 2005. However, the Chief Judicial Magistrate at Ernakulam refused to accept these closure reports and asked the agency to conduct further investigation.
On November 1, 2008, the High Court of Kerala directed the Kochi Unit of the CBI to take over the investigation. Soon after that, by November 19, 2008, the CBI arrested Father Thomas Kottoor, Sister Sephy and Father Jose Poothrikkayil.
In July 2009, the CBI filed a chargesheet arraying Father Thomas Kottoor, Sister Sephy and Father Jose Poothrukkayil as accused for offences of murder and destruction of evidence. As per the report, Sister Abhaya had accidentally intruded upon Sr. Sephy and the other two accused priests in a "compromising position". It was further alleged that Sr Sephy panicked and, on the spur of the moment, Sephy hit Abhaya with an axe meant for chopping firewood. After that, the accuseddumped Abhaya's body into the well.
In October 2020, the High Court directed to expedite the trial by doing it on a day-to-day basis. A single bench of Justice V G Arun observed that it was "disheartening to note that criminal proceedings pertaining to a crime of 1992 is yet to attain finality, whether it be by reason of providence or design". The Court allowed cross-examination of witnesses through video conferencing mode considering the pandemic situation.
The accused were subjected to narco-analysis and brain mapping tests at the Forensic Science Laboratory, Bangalore.
Last year, the High Court of Kerala ruled that the results of narco-analysis and brain mapping process done on the accused cannot be used in evidence.