A 35-year-old Christian catholic padre from Kerala named Father Thomas Parakkulam was sentenced to 18 years of rigorous imprisonment for raping four minor boys who were his students at his seminary. The sentences have to be undergone separately, and Parakkulam has to serve out those 18 years in jail. All his four victims were just 16 at that time.
Judge KN Sujith from the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) court issued the ruling. The rapist padre was also ordered to pay Rs 1 lakh each to his four victims. Oddly, the court sentenced the padre to five years each in three cases and a three-year sentence for the fourth victim.
The incident happened five years ago, and the accused padre even escaped from police custody. He had absconded, but the police later arrested him from Chennai. Parakkulam is associated with the Chennai-based Society of Eugene De Mazenod and served as a padre at the Holy Cross Seminary at Pullamala near Kottarakara. These seminaries are boarding schools created specifically to enroll teenage boys who wish to become Catholic padres.
A case was registered against the padre in 2017 under Section 377 (unnatural offenses) of the Indian Penal Code and other relevant sections of the POCSO Act, 2012. This section is charged for crimes like sodomy of minors and cannot be quashed merely on the grounds of compromise between the parties. The Christian church has a nasty habit and history of pressurizing victims and their families to compromise when it comes to rapes, as was evident from the case of Jalandhar Bishop Franco Mulakkal.
Considering the trauma suffered by the victims of the sexual attacks, the court also ordered the District Legal Services Authority (DLSA) to pay adequate compensation to the victims commensurate to the physical and mental trauma suffered by them. Such a vague order to a cash-strapped state will only encourage intervention and even lead to acquittal.
The case was registered and investigated based on a complaint received by the Child Welfare Committee in Thiruvananthapuram.