A Supreme Court bench of Justices Ajay Rastogi and Abhay S. Oka, on Friday, granted pre-arrest bail to C. C. Jhonson, who is an accused in a rape case in connection with an FIR (first information report) registered four years after the incident. The accused-petitioner is a Pastor and a trustee of Emperor Emmanuel Church, Mooriyadu, Thrissur district, Kerala. He allegedly trespassed into the victim’s residence and committed rape on her. He also took her naked photographs on his mobile phone with the ulterior motive to subjugate her and thereafter threatened her with dire consequences. The incident took place on July 9, 2016, but the complaint was registered only on March 26 this year, on the basis of which the FIR was registered at Aloor Police Station, Thrissur Rural district, Kerala. Meanwhile, the complainant got married on August 31, 2018, and took her husband into confidence, before making a formal complaint. She has alleged that the accused continued to blackmail her after her marriage with the videos which he had made after the incident. The accused allegedly kept sending her vulgar and abusive messages. He also allegedly issued threats not to disclose the incident to anyone. She claimed that she did not complain immediately after the incident, to avoid social stigma, in view of her marriage. During the course of the hearing earlier, Justice Rastogi was quoted as saying: “We understand and respect that there can be many reasons for a woman to stay silent”. On Friday, however, the bench expressed its satisfaction that the accused had made out a case for pre-arrest bail. “In the event of his arrest, the petitioner shall be released on pre-arrest bail on such terms and conditions to the satisfaction of the concerned trial court. The petitioner shall cooperate in the pending investigation. If he fails to cooperate in the pending investigation, the respondents are at liberty to move an application for cancellation of bail before the appropriate court”, the bench observed. The accused, however, raised a plea of false implication and contended that after the death of the spiritual head of the church on April 25, 2017, he resigned his official position along with some others, and joined the Catholic Church. He alleged that Emperor Emmanuel Church, therefore, sought to be vindictive against those who resigned. He alleged criminal conspiracy between the office-bearers of the Emmanuel Church and the complainant. The complainant, however, has denied that she is a member of any faction so as to implicate him in a false case. Earlier, the Kerala High Court had dismissed an anticipatory bail application by the accused on August 11, as the complainant alleged that he is well-connected, and by using his power and money, he will tamper with the evidence by influencing and threatening the witnesses. The High Court had held that delay in lodging the FIR in a rape case is not of much significance. “It is a fact that the victim has to muster courage to come out in the open and expose herself that too immediately after her marriage. A lady may be extremely reluctant to open up for various reasons. The delay in lodging FIR per se is not fatal. What is fatal is the delay, without proper explanation. According to her, the terrible incident happened while there were marriage proposals for her, and she got married subsequently in the year 2018….”, the High Court observed in its order. The High Court added that the fear of social stigma, concern about the honour of the family, and the leading of family life by her would make a woman extremely reluctant in disclosing an incident of rape. She complained only when the intimidation and disturbance from the side of the petitioner-accused was unbearable, and intolerable for her. She broke her silence only when he, along with his henchmen, continued to torture her and indulge in illegal activities, the High Court found, on the basis of what the materials on record prima facie revealed. The High Court, therefore, concluded that custodial interrogation of the accused was inevitable for the investigating agency, in order to collect all the available materials from him, to proceed with the case.