The Kerala High Court on Wednesday turned down the anticipatory bail pleas of three priests of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church who are accused of raping a married woman.

Dismissing the petition, Justice Raja Vijayaraghavan also directed the accused priests to surrender forthwith before the court concerned.

Fr. Sony Varghese, Fr. Job Mathew, and Fr. Jaise K. George filed the anticipatory bail petitions.

Rejecting the pleas, the judge observed that “prima facie, it appears that the applicants have acted as predators and they have taken undue advantage of the position of the survivor to their advantage. From her version, it appears that the survivor has been systematically abused by the accused, who are all closely known to the family members of the survivor.”

Influencing witness

The court added that the apprehensions of the prosecution that the applicants would manage to tamper with the evidence and influence the witnesses could not be ignored. Also, the investigation was in the preliminary stages. “The reasonable possibility of the applicants managing to obstruct the course of justice, if released at this stage, cannot be brushed aside.”

The survivor, in her statement, asserted that her consent was not unequivocal or voluntary. On the other hand, she had given a graphic description of how she was threatened and forced to succumb to the carnal desires of the accused. The court said it found no reason to ignore her statement at this stage. The survivor had an explanation for keeping the incident under wraps.

Senior government pleader Suman Chakravarthy submitted that if the accused were granted pre-arrest bail, it would impede the investigation.

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