The Supreme Court on Monday rejected bail petitions filed by a woman and her rapist, a convicted former Catholic priest from Kerala, to marry each other, Live Law reported.
In 2019, Robin Vadakkumchery was found guilty under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act for raping and impregnating the woman when she was a minor. He is currently serving a 20-year prison term.
In February this year, the Kerala High Court had rejected the 49-year-old former priest’s plea to be let out on bail so he could marry the woman. Both Vadakkumchery and the woman moved the Supreme Court to appeal against the Kerala High Court order. The woman said she wanted to marry him to legitimise the child born after the rape.
During Monday’s hearing, the Supreme Court bench of Justices Vineet Saran and Dinesh Maheshwari said that there was no reason to interfere with the Kerala High Court order.
Advocate Kiran Suri, representing the woman, said her child was now four years old and she wanted the father’s name on school application forms.
At this point, the bench sought to know the age difference between the woman and Vadakkumchery. Advocate Amit George, representing the convict, said the former priest was more than 45 years old, while the woman was around 25.
“In a bail plea, how can my fundamental right to marry be hindered,” Vadakkumchery’s counsel asked the judges, according to Bar and Bench. “Observations should not be such that an application cannot be made to jail superintendent. There are scathing observations by the High Court.”
The judges while refusing to grant relief said, “You have invited it yourself.” They, however, allowed the former priest to once again approach the Kerala High Court.
A single-judge Kerala High Court bench of Justice Sunil Thomas in February cited several Supreme Court verdicts against allowing compromise in cases of sexual offences. “Granting bail to enable the parties to get married and to have custody of child will be giving legal sanctity to such marriage and thereby prejudging the crucial issue involved in the appeal,” he had said, according to The Times of India.
In February 2017, Vadakkumchery was arrested days after the woman gave birth. In the weeks that followed, her father had claimed responsibility for the rape because of extreme pressure from the church. DNA tests established that the former priest was the father.
During the trial, the woman turned hostile saying it was consensual sex between them. But, the POCSO court convicted Vadakkumcherry and sentenced him to rigorous imprisonment. It based its verdict on the birth certificate of the woman, which showed that she was a minor in 2016, when the priest raped her.
Following his conviction, the head of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis, expelled Vadakkumchery from the clergy in March 2020.