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.
As the bail plea was strongly opposed by the prosecution, the counsels of the three priests informed the court that their clients were willing to surrender. But the court pointed out that there was enough evidence against Father Sony Varghese, Father Job Mathew and Father Jaice K. George and declined them bail.
The Crime Branch was expected to arrest the three, and also a fourth priest, who is on the run.
A woman who regularly visited the Malankara Orthodox Church had accused five priests of sexually abusing her for a decade. Her husband had complained that one of the priests, who first exploited his wife, was blackmailing her.
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.
After pressure mounted on the police following the National Commission for Women monitoring the case, the four priests were charged with sexual assault. One of the priests escaped action as the victim had mentioned only four names, a police officer said.
The court last week also refused any relief to the accused, who had sought a direction that police should not arrest them till their bail petition was heard.
The Kottayam-headquartered church has gone into a limbo since the allegations have surfaced. At least two more women have come out alleging that they too were sexually abused by two other priests of the same church since this case surfaced. Both victims are expected to file complaints.