The criminal proceedings were quashed as the police had not brought any fresh evidence against the six accused other than the evidence already produced against five persons, including two priests, who were named in a primary chargesheet in 2014.
A single judge of the high court Tuesday quashed proceedings against Fr A. Thomas, Fr Anbu John, Fr C Selvaraj (who died recently) and Fr I Anthappa as well as two others — Rita Reeni and Raphaelraj — who were among the 12 people named in the murder in two separate chargesheets.The police have in their chargesheets alleged that Fr Thomas was murdered in an internecine battle for supremacy on linguistic lines within the Catholic church in Karnataka. They have alleged that the murder was part of a conspiracy by a Kannada group in the church to take control over the St Peter’s Pontifical Seminary and its property.
During the arguments in the case, the accused had alleged that an attempt was being made by the non-Kannadigas in the Catholic Church to propagate a theory that the murder of Fr Thomas was the result of an effort by Kannadigas to take over the St Peter’s Pontifical Seminary.
Though the Bengaluru police had named four priests in the supplementary chargesheet, the Archbishop of Bangalore and the Catholic Bishops Conference of India had not suspended the priests.
The family of Fr Thomas had written to the CBCI on a few occasions seeking suspension of Fr Anbu John, Fr A Thomas, Fr C Selvaraj and Fr I Anthappa after they were named in the November 24, 2015 chargesheet.
The Archbishop of Bengaluru, however, prevented the installation of a bust of one the priests named in the chargesheet, Fr C Selvaraj, at a church in north Bengaluru where he was the parish priest until the time of his death. The Archbishop shut down the church after the followers of Fr C Selvaraj tried to forcibly install the bust.
Two priests, Fr Daniel Elias and Fr William Patrick, who were arrested for the murder in March 2014 and named in the primary chargesheet in the case are in prison awaiting trial.