A CBI special court here on Wednesday handed life imprisonment to the Catholic priest and nun who were found guilty of the murder of Sister Abhaya (19), whose body was found inside a well at a convent in Kottayam on March 27, 1992.
Special CBI Judge K Sanal Kumar awarded double life sentence to Father Thomas Kottoor (71) and ordered him to pay a fine of Rs 6.5 lakh. Sister Sephy (57) was sentenced to life and ordered to pay a fine of Rs 5.5 lakh.
Kottoor and Sephy were awarded life sentence and a fine of Rs 5 lakh each for the offence of murder (IPC Section 302); with two years simple imprisonment in case of default in payment of fine. For destroying evidence (Section 201), the court sentenced the duo to seven years rigorous imprisonment and imposed a fine of Rs 50,000, with one year simple imprisonment in case of default.
Kottoor was handed a second life sentence and ordered to pay a fine of Rs 1 lakh under Section 449 (trespassing to commit offence punishable with death), with one year imprisonment in case of default in payment of fine.
All the sentences will run concurrently, the court said.
Earlier, the prosecution said the duo should be given the maximum punishment. Pleading for relief, Kottoor said he was old and a cancer patient. Sephy said she was diabetic.
In a statement, the Knanaya Catholic diocese of Kottayam said it respected the court’s verdict and was pained over the developments. Saying that the allegations were unbelievable, it said the duo had the right to file an appeal and prove their innocence.
Both the victim and the accused belonged to the Knanaya diocese.
The CBI had named another priest, Father Jose Puthrikkayl, as an accused but the court allowed his discharge petition before the trial, which began last year, citing lack of evidence.
According to the CBI, Abhaya, a pre-degree college student, was killed after she found the two priests and Sephy in a compromising position inside the kitchen of the Pius X Convent hostel.
Kottoor and Sephy, who were out on bail, were taken into custody on Tuesday.