A POCSO (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences) court in Kerala Friday (April 30) found Father Thomas Parekkulam guilty of sexually assaulting four minor boys and sentenced him to 18 years in jail.
Father Thomas Parekkulam, 35, belongs to the Catholic congregation Society of St Eugene De Mazendo, based in France. Four cases were registered against him in 2017 in Kerala’s Kollam district when he was working as a parish priest in a seminary in Kerala’s Pullamala.
Of the four cases registered against him, the court of Kollam additional sessions court (POCSO) judge K N Sujith sentenced Father Thomas to five years each in three cases and three years in the fourth case.
The court ruled that the sentences would run consecutively, totaling 18 years. The court also ordered Father Thomas to pay a fine of rupees 1 lakh.
The cases had come to lime light after the seminarians had left the seminary because of the trauma and one of the victims had approached the government child helpline for children in distress.
The prosecution had submitted in the court that Father Thomas Parekkulam was working as a parish priest at the time of the crime when a few seminarians were staying with him at a rented house. Father Thomas subjected the minor seminarians to sexual abuse at his parsonage over a period of time. The prosecution had successfully gathered evidence to back their claim in the submission.
On March 17, Father Pondson John, priest of the Syrian Orthodox Church at Koodal in Kerala, was arrested for sexually assaulting a 17-year-old girl.
The victim’s mother had taken her to Father John’s residence on March 12 for counselling as she was facing difficulties in her studies. The next day he visited her residence for further counselling and sexually assaulted her when she was alone at home.
The victim was scared and later narrated the incident to her friend who told the child helpline authorities about the sexual assault.
Father John has been booked under Sections 3 (penetrative sexual assault), 4 (punishment for penetrative sexual assault), 7 (sexual assault) and 8 (punishment for sexual assault) of the POCSO Act.
In December last year, the Kerala High Court had reduced the sentence of Catholic priest Father Robin Vadakumchery from 20 years to 10 years. He was found guilty of raping a minor in 2017. The case came to light when the victim delivered a baby in a church-run hospital.