Plea seeks action against media in nun murder case

via PNS | Kochi published on September 23, 2009

Even as the issue of who leaked the tapes of narco-analysis on the three accused in the Sr Abhaya murder case continued to remain a mystery, a new petition came up on Wednesday before the Chief Judicial Magistrate Court, Ernakulam seeking contempt of court proceedings against certain media organizations for publishing the contents of the tapes. The court posted the hearing on the petition and some other similar pleas in the Sr Abahaya case to October 5.

Mathew Joseph, brother of Catholic nun Sr Seffi, third accused in the Sr Abhaya murder case, filed the fresh petition in the court after it had found some shortcomings in the plea filed by the nun herself earlier with the same prayer. The petitioner sought action under Sections 8 and 15 of the contempt of court rules against seven television channels and ten newspapers.

The television news channels had telecast the contents of the tapes of narco-analyses on September 15, after the CBI handed over their copies to the accused on their plea. The tapes showed senior Knanaya Catholic Church priests Fr Thomas M Kottoor and Fr Jose Puthrukayi and Sr Seffi, a senior nun, first, second and third accused respectively, undergoing the narco-tests at the Central Forensic Sciences Laboratory in Bangalore.

On an urgent plea from the accused, the CJM court had intervened to instruct the channels not to go on telecasting the tapes. Most of the channels also had held long prime time talk-shows on the tapes on the same night. Some newspapers carried reports on the tapes the following morning. The accused contended that this was an act of contempt of court.

When the petition of Sr Seffi seeking action against the media the other say under contempt of court provisions came up the other day, the court had asked the counsel to be specific about the provisions under which contempt of court proceedings should be undertook. It was in this context that Sr Seffi’s brother filed a fresh petition.

The petition wanted the CJM court to take action against the media under Section 8 of the Contempt of Court rules and it also wanted the matter to be referred to the High Court under Section 15. The CJM court posted the pleas of Mathew and Sr Seffi for further action to October 5.

The petitioner complained that the media reports had suggested that the accused had admitted to the crime as per the contents of the tapes even when the court was not yet convinced about the authenticity of the tapes. A specialist institution had found extensive editing on the tapes, which the accused said were intended to show them as admitting to the crime.

The petition also said that the coverage in the media had led to some kind of a trail by the media of the accused and had caused widespread prejudice against them. It said the media had continued to report on the CDs even after the court had given instructions to stop it. The CBI, which was probing the case and had arrested the three church personalities on November 19, said it did not want to oppose the plea.

According to the chargesheet the CBI had filed in the court, Fr Kottoor, Fr Puthrukayil and Sr Seffi had thrown Sr Abhaya in the well of St Pius X Convent, Kottayam after striking her with a blunt object in the back of her head. The chargesheet said that they were prompted to

commit the act after Sr Abhaya had seen them together in the back of the convent in compromising postures at an unearthly hour of the night.

The body of Sr Abhaya, a 20-year-old pre-degree student at the Kottayam college where the first accused was a teacher, was found in the well of the convent on the morning of March 27, 1992.

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