Bangalore, July 3: Police in Kerala slapped rape charges on 4 of the 5 priests accused of sexually exploiting a woman by blackmailing her with confession secrets.
The Crime Branch, which launched investigations after CPM veteran and former Chief Minister VS Achuthanandan wrote to the state Director General of Police about taking a suo motu case based on media reports, had recorded the statements of the victim and her husband.
It was not clear why the 5th priest was not named in the FIR filed on Monday in Kottayam. If convicted, all of them face life terms.
Church sources said the priests could seek anticipatory bail, as they fear arrest since they are charged with rape and blackmail, both non-bailable offences.
But it was not immediately known when their anticipatory bail applications are likely to be filed.
A man from Kottayam had recently submitted a written complaint to the Malankara Orthodox Church based in Kottayam, accusing five of its parish priests of sexually exploiting his wife.
Prior to that a recording of his telephone conversation with an unidentified person from the same church had caused a furore in Kerala after it was leaked on social media.
The woman was allegedly exploited by her parish priest before her marriage. After she got married and started a family life, she made a confession before another priest in the local church.
But that priest allegedly used the confession secret to blackmail her into submission, as she was afraid he would leak it to her husband and ruin her family life. He clicked her objectionable pictures and shared them with a few other priests, who too allegedly sexually exploited the woman. The church had last week initiated an internal investigation. (Courtesy: TT)