A Catholic priest from Kerala was on Thursday sentenced to rigorous imprisonment for the “remainder of his life” for raping a 14-year-old minor girl several times. The court said that he had ‘misused his position, had gone to extent of attributing bad character to the girl and betrayed the believers of the church’.
According to NDTV, additional District and Sessions Court Judge K T Nisar Ahamed convicted Edwin Figarez, a priest attached to the Lourdes Matha Church, Puthenvelikkara in Ernakulam district in Kerala under various sections of the POSCO Act and the IPC. The Judge said that the culprit deserved ‘maximum punishment’ prescribed by the law which should have a deterrent effect.
The Judge, in his judgement, the Judge said that the Catholic priest has “misused his position as a Vicar for the Church”. The court sentenced hum to double rigorous imprisonment for life “which shall mean imprisonment for the remainder of his natural life”, the court observed.
The court further observed that the priest has not only assaulted the 14-year-old girl but also “betrayed the trust of the believers of the Church. It is pertinent to note that he has gone to the extent of attributing bad character to the victim – a small girl,” the court observed in its judgement.
The court, which deals with cases related to atrocities and sexual violence against women and children, also imposed a fine of Rs. 2,15,000 on the Catholic priest.
The judgement was pronounced exactly a year after the priest surrendered before the investigation team in Aluva.
“So by considering all these aspects, I am of the opinion that he doesn’t deserve any leniency. He deserves maximum punishment prescribed by law and it should have a deterrent effect,” said the judge.
The court observed that a Vicar of Church is viewed by the general public in high esteem.
“He should be a model for believers and also for general public. He is expected to live a life which could be emulated by others. But contrary to that the first accused has misused his position as a vicar for the church,” the judge said.
The judge also sentenced the 58-year-old Silvester Figarez, brother of the Catholic priest to one year simple imprisonment for helping his brother to abscond after the Kerala High Court rejected the anticipatory bail plea of the priest in May last year.
The judge also found Dr Ajitha of government hospital guilty of not reporting the crime to the police. Dr Ajitha examined the girl when her mother took her to the hospital following the incident of rape. However, she was let off under section 3 of the Probation of Offenders Act after admonition.
In her complaint to the police, mother of the victim had alleged that her child was sexually assaulted by priest Figarez in a church complex between January and March in 2015, mostly when she came for confession.
The girl’s mother had alleged that the priest abused her daughter many times when she sought his services for confession.