The Kerala High Court on Wednesday rejected the anticipatory bail plea of three of the four Malankara Orthodox Church priests who have been accused of sexually abusing a woman parishioner. While one has surrendered, three others are on the run say sources. After the complainant got married in 2009, she related the incident to the second priest - Father Job Mathew - during a church confession. The priest was transferred to another parish, but, the complaint said, he continued to send lewd messages to the woman and she eventually approached police.
According to the woman, she was "systematically abused" by the accused, who were all closely known to her family.
The Malankkara Syrian Orthodox Church priests have been accused of rape, based on the statement of a the woman who alleged that she was sexually abused by five priests.
The victim - a mother of two - alleged one of her distant relatives Father Varghese had sexually assaulted her first when she was a minor.
When she sought help from another priest, he too threatened her and shared her contact with a fellow priest and, in the end, she came under duress from at least five priests.
In a scathing observation, while rejecting the bail pleas, the court yesterday said, "It appears that the applicants have acted as predators and have taken undue advantage of the position of the survivor".
"The reasonable possibility of the accused managing to obstruct the course of justice, if released at this stage, can not be brushed aside", it said. The priests deny the rape accusation against them.
According to the woman's complaint to the police, the issue was taken up with the Church authorities and they made a decision to settle it between the two sides.
The court also directed the accused to surrender forthwith before the court of jurisdiction.