A special court in Ernakulam on Thursday sentenced a young Kerala Catholic priest to undergo double life imprisonment after he was found guilty of raping a minor girl from the community. This is the first time in Kerala that a Catholic priest is punished under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act. The convicted Fr Edwin Figarez, 41, belongs to Kottappauram Catholic diocese. Besides undergoing jail term, he has to pay a fine of Rs 2.15 lakh. The double jail term would run concurrently.
His brother was sentenced to one year imprisonment on charges of helping the priest go into hiding after the police registered the case in April this year. Besides, a government doctor named Ajitha, who had worked a state-run primary health center, was also found guilty on charges of her failure to report the sexual abuse after she examined the victim.
According to prosecution, Fr Figarez, parish priest at Lourd Matha Church, Puthenvelikkara in Ernakulam district, had subjected the girl to sexual abuse several times since January 2016. The last incident was on March 28.
Figarez, a preacher, had been active in the field of Christian devotional songs and had several compositions to his credit. He allegedly lured the girl exploiting her interest in music. Often, he used to take the 14-year-old victim to the parsonage under the pretext of music class.
The sexual abuse was exposed after the girl revealed her trauma to the mother, who in turn, moved a complaint with the police. After the police registered the case on April 1, this year, Figarez had gone into hiding. Later, he surrendered before the court. Following the scandal, the Kottapuram diocese had divested the priest from all duties.