Judge tells Suraj Pancholi's lawyer that deceased's mother Rabia Khan wants to file some written submissions.
After 28 years, a special CBI court in Thiruvananthapuram on Tuesday found Father Thomas Kotoor and Sister Sefi guilty of murdering Sister Abhaya. The court will pronounce the quantum of punishment on Wednesday.
The special CBI court judge K Sanal Kumar found that both the accused Father Thomas Kotoor and Sister Sefi were guilty of murder (Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code), Section 449 (house trespassing to commit a crime) and Section 201 (destroying evidence) and other sections of the IPC.
Sister Sefi broke down in court after hearing the verdict but main accused Father Kotoor said he was innocent and he will prove his innocence in the court of God. Second accused in the case, Father Jose Poothrukayil was let off by the trial court last year after no evidence was found against him.
It was in 1992 that Abhaya, a 19-year-old nun, was found dead in the well of Pious Xth Convent in Kottayam district of Kerala. According to the CBI team’s findings, Sister Abhaya was killed by two priests, Thomas Kotoor and Jose Poothrikkayil, and another nun in her convent, Sefi. However, Jose Poothrikkayil was later removed from the list of accused as no evidence was found against him.
According to the CBI charge-sheet, on the day of her death, Abhaya got up early to study and went to the kitchen to wash her face. The chargesheet surmised that she witnessed some sexual activity involving the two priests and nun and was killed because they feared she may disclose what she had witnessed.
The local police and the Crime Branch had termed the incident as suicide and it took four CBI probes and a series of judicial interventions to cast away the suicide theory. The investigation by the agency revealed that the state police had deliberately destroyed key evidence such as Abhaya’s robe and diary.
The lengthy legal procedures and the nature of the case made the case a notable one. The CBI charge-sheeted the accused in 2009 and, two years later, the accused moved a discharge petition in the court. This plea took nine years to reach a conclusion as the court discharged Poothrikkayil while rejecting the petitions of the other two.
Expressing satisfaction over the verdict, Abhaya’s brother said “God is great. Justice has been given to my sister, though it is delayed.” Activist Joman Puthanpurakkal who single-handedly took up the case said his 28 years of work had turned fruitful finally.
Verghese P Thomas, former deputy SP of the CBI, who first investigated the case and later resigned from the agency alleging that he was pressurized by his senior officers to make it a suicide case, also expressed his satisfaction over the verdict.