In the last two days the CBI has arrested two senior Catholic priests and a nun for the murder of another nun, Sr. Abhaya.
Sixteen years back the body of Sr. Abhaya, a Pre-degree student then, was found in the well of the convent where she was staying. The investigation into the incident, first by the local police and subsequently by the Crime Branch, lasted ten months. The finding was that the young nun had committed suicide.
Abhaya’s relatives and the Action Council that had been formed to ensure justice in the case did not accept this conclusion. The Kerala High Court endorsed their view and referred the case to the CBI.
The CBI officer who handled the investigation was of the opinion that the nun had been murdered. Shortly he resigned from the service alleging that he was being pressurized by his superior officers to accept the suicide theory mooted by the Kerala Police.
Since then, several CBI teams have investigated the Abhaya case. The two priests now arrested were subjected to modern tests like narco-analysis earlier. Nothing conclusive emerged from that. A few times the CBI approached the Kerala High Court for permission to close the case stating that the evidence was insufficient to proceed against the suspects.
This move attracted severe criticism by the Court, which directed that a new team be entrusted with the investigation of the Abhaya case. This was done on the 28th of last month. The new batch of sleuths made the arrests within three weeks claiming that they had gathered sufficient proof against the accused.
Several questions arise from this development. Does the new group consist of super detectives? They seem to have unearthed clinching evidence within a few days. This is something their predecessors could not do in nearly fifteen years!
Or, was the evidence suppressed for unknown reasons all theses years and the new batch of investigators merely went ahead boldly and acted on it? A third possibility is that the CBI team has knocked together a weak case. If that is so, the accused would walk free.
The answers to these questions should be available in the near future.
In the meantime, there is, apart from the legal angle, an important aspect to the Abhaya case. In Kerala the Christian community is strong and influential. But, by and large, the attitude of the community seems to be that the law should take its own course no matter whether god-men and women are involved or not.
So far no political party seems to have attempted to take mileage from the new turn in the Abhaya case.
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