Sister Abhaya Case Verdict Explained

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Sister Abhaya was a catholic Nun whose body was found in a well on March 27’ 1992. A special CBI inquiry, however, after a thorough investigation of the said ‘suicide’ case, concluded that it turned out to be a murder case.

Facts of the Case:

The victim was a pre-degree student in a college run by the Catholic Church, Kananaya Catholic Church. She was an inmate of Pious X Convent Hostel with 123 others, which included some 20 nuns at the time of the incident.

The case which was presented by the prosecution was that Sephy had an affair with two priests who was professors in a college in Kottayam. On the day of the incident, Sister Abhaya had been preparing for an exam. Her colleague Sister Shirly woke her up at 4 am that morning. She then went to the kitchen to take cold water from the fridge to wash her face to keep her awake. When Abhaya entered the kitchen, she allegedly saw the two priests, Kottoor and Puthrikkayl, and the nun in a compromising position. On being identified, one of the priests strangulated Sister Abhaya while the other priest beat her with an axe, and together they dumped her in the well which was situated in the compound.

While the scenario presented by the Prosecution suggested a murder trial, the local police, on the basis of their findings, and the statement given by the Mother Superior of the Convent, Sister Leissure, concluded that Sister Abhaya has committed suicide.

The CBI Investigation:

The CBI re-opened the case on a basis of a complaint which was filed by the Mother Superior, and 65 other nuns to the Chief Minister, K. Karunakaran, alleging that sister Abhaya was murdered and that the case wasn’t investigated properly.

The CBI registered an FIR saying it could not conclude whether it had been a case of suicide or homicide, mainly because of the medical evidence. It was, however, reported that

“Assuming it to be a case of homicide, all possible efforts were made to determine the identity of culprits, if any, could have been involved in this tragic incident. However, our prolonged efforts, as indicated in the preceding paras, did not yield any fruitful results.”

However, the report was rejected by the Chief Judicial Magistrate.

Under Deputy SP Surinder Paul, the investigation continued and another report was filed which stated Homicide as the cause of the Death. Despite the best efforts made during the investigation, the identity of the culprits could not be established, and a request was made to accept the report and treat the crime “as closed being untraced”. The conclusion of “homicide” was reached mainly based on the medical opinion given by three doctors, as against the opinion given by Dr C Radhakrishnan, who conducted an autopsy on the body of Abhaya.

The second final report was also rejected by the court and the CBI probe continued.

In another final report on August 25, 2005, the CBI stated that

“further investigation conducted, at the behest of the court, has not indicated the involvement of any person in the death of Sister Abhaya” and a request was made that the “case be treated as closed as untraced”.

High Court handed over the case to the state of unit of CBI  and a three-month period to complete the probe.

On Tuesday, the special CBI court in Thiruvananthapuram founds Father Thomas Kottoor ad Sister Sephy guilty in the case pertaining to the murder of Catholic Nun Abhaya. Kottoor, 69, and Sephy, 55, were charged under Section 302 for Murder and Section 201 for (destruction of evidence) of Indian Penal Code (IPC).

The quantum of punishment will be delivered on Wednesday.


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