A CBI Special Court on Wednesday sentenced Catholic priest Thomas M Kottur to two life terms and co-convict Sister Steffi to life imprisonment for the murder of Sister Abhaya in Kottayam 28 years ago. Judge K Sanilkumar also imposed fines of Rs 5 lakh each on the two convicts.
Kottur has to pay additional Rs 1 lakh as fine as he was also found guilty of trespassing the Pious Tenth Convent, where Sister Abhaya was found dead in a well on March 27, 1992. Kottur was handed the second life imprisonment under Section 449 for barging into the convent.
Kottur was handed the life imprisonment and fine after conviction under Section 302 of the IPC. Sister Steffi was also convicted and fined under the same Section, apart from 7 years of rigorous imprisonment for tampering with evidence under Section 201.
The convicts will have to undergo both punishments concurrently.
Earlier, Kottur’s counsel argued that he was suffering from various ailments and required regular shots of insulin as he was a chronic diabetic.
Sister Steffi’s counsel too argued that she was the sole support of her parents and that her pension money helped them survive. However, the court did not buy the defence arguments and handed them life imprisonments.
Joemon Puthanpurakal, Convener of Sister Abhaya Action Council, said: “The judge has acted as a representative of God; after 28 years, Sister Abhaya has got justice. It’s God’s will to give maximum punishment to the culprits, who committed the cold-blooded murder.”
He said that their fight will continue as the convicts will certainly move the higher courts for reprieve. “I will fight till the last as these culprits will move the higher courts to get relief. I will go to any extent to see to it that this judgment is upheld.”
Varghese P Thomas, a former CBI Deputy SP and the first Investigating Officer who had come out with the report that Sister Abhaya was murdered, told the media: “It’s a clear judgment and both convicts given maximum punishment just short of death penalty. Justice has been upheld. It shows that truth can prevail even after so many years.”
Thomas was forced to take voluntary retirement from service after his superior officers opposed his findings in the Sister Abhaya case.
Professor Thresiamma, now a retired Professor of BCM College at Kottayam and one of the witnesses, said: “Truth will always prevail. Even after so many years, truth has come out….”
“I think it was my divine duty to be a witness in this case and its God’s will that I am part of this.”
Thresiamma was a teacher of Sister Abhaya, who was pursuing a pre-degree course at the BCM College at the time of her death. Thresiamma was one of the few witnesses who stood their ground amid intimidation and threats and offers.