Sister Abhaya murder case: Delhi HC calls Virginity test unconstitutional

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Delhi: The virginity test conducted on a female detainee or accused under investigation whether in judicial or police custody is unconstitutional, the Delhi high court said on Tuesday.

While holding the virginity test conducted on Sister Sephy, convicted for the murder of Sister Abhaya in 1992 in Kerala, as unconstitutional, justice Swarn Kanta Sharma said the basic dignity of a person in custody has to be upheld, which has been flouted in the present case.

“The virginity test conducted on a female detainee/accused under investigation whether in judicial or police custody, is declared unconstitutional and in violation of the Article 21 of the Constitution,” the court said in its judgment.

With respect to the action to be taken against the CBI, the court said that various legal remedies are available with the nun, after she had contended that her virginity test report was leaked and a false story of hymenoplasty was circulated.

The court also gave a slew of direction to the investigating agency to ensure that the officers are sensitized in this regard.

A copy of the detailed judgement is yet to be uploaded.

Sister Abhaya was found dead in a well at the St Pius Convent in Kottayam district of Kerala on 27 March, 1992. Local police and the crime branch of the state had at the time, said it was a case of suicide.

But a year later, the CBI took over the case when Sister Banicassia, Mother Superior, and 67 other nuns from the Knanaya Catholic Church that Abhaya was part of, wrote to then chief minister K Karunakaran claiming the probe was not conducted properly.

Nearly 17 years later, in 2009, the CBI, in its charge sheet, said the deceased had apparently seen Sister Sephy, Father Kottoor and a third accused, Father Jose Poothrikkayil, in a compromising position.

Father Kottoor, accused by the CBI, is believed to have strangled Abhaya while Sister Sephy hit her with an axe.

In December 2020, the special CBI court confirmed this finding and held that Sister Sephy and Father Kottoor had inflicted a fatal blow on the victim’s head, causing her death.

The agency also found that they had then dumped her body in the well to make it look like a suicide. Father Poothrikkayil was acquitted due to lack of evidence in 2018.

The special CBI court had awarded Sister Sephy and Father Kottoor imprisonment for life and a fine of ₹5 lakh each for the offence of murder, in addition to penalties under other sections of the IPC.

In June last year, the high court had suspended the sentence and granted bail to the convicts.

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