The Kerala High Court Tuesday declined to grant two church priests any interim protection from arrest over sexual assault charges and adjourned the hearing on their anticipatory bail pleas till Monday.
Sony Varghese, 42, and Job Mathew, 40, of the Malankara Syrian Orthodox Church, moved the anticipatory bail pleas in the high court apprehending arrest in the case.
Adjourning the case to Monday, Justice Raja Vijayaraghavan declined their pleas not to arrest them till further hearing of the case.
The court also directed police to produce the complaint of sexual harassment of the woman filed by her husband and other documents related to the case.
Varghese and Mathew moved the high court a day after the Crime Branch wing of Kerala Police slapped rape charges against four of the five Malankara Syrian Orthodox Church priests, including them, in the case.
The priests, in separate, but identical pleas, rejected the woman’s allegations that they had sexually assaulted her.
They alleged that the crime was registered against them “solely at the instance of the political pressure exerted by certain vested interests to derive political mileage”.
Both claimed that even if the charges by the alleged victim in their entirety were assumed to be correct, without them admitting, the same does not make out an offence under Section 376 of IPC.
They contended that the entire allegation revealed that sexual intercourse, if any, was fully consensual.
Meanwhile, Crime Branch Inspector General S Sreejith, who is heading the probe, visited the headquarters of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church in Kottayam and discussed case-related matters with its supreme head, Baselios Marthoma Paulose II.
Sreejith said the head priest told him to take all legal steps correctly in the case.
He also offered all help to police in the probe.
The crime branch had on Monday registered an FIR and slapped rape charges against the priests after recording the woman’s statement.
Last month, the man from Pathanamthitta district accused the five priests of using his wife’s secret confession to blackmail and sexually abuse her.
The incident came to light after an audio clip containing the man’s purported conversation with a church official alleging sexual abuse of his wife by the priests was widely circulated on social media.
The investigation team had recorded the statement of the victim’s husband earlier.
The man had reportedly handed over copies of evidence against the priests to the crime branch team.
A Crime Branch probe was ordered into the case last week by state police chief Loknath Behara.
Veteran CPI(M) leader and chairman of the Kerala Administrative Reforms Commission V S Achuthanandan and the National Commission for Women had written to Behara, demanding a probe into the charges.