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Monday, January 17, 2022

Mumbai court: Heinous acts of Father cast life-long psychological, emotional impact on child

On Wednesday, the court had found the priest, who was in charge of a church in the city, guilty of offences under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act for repeated aggravated penetrative sexual assault on the child on two occasions in August and November 2015.

Written by Sadaf Modak | Mumbai |
Updated: January 1, 2022 1:33:34 am
The complainant said they had agreed to develop a parcel of land of the accused for residential, commercial, retail, entertainment, mixed land use and recreational project and as per a collaboration agreement, had paid Rs 88 crore in 2016 as a security deposit. (File)

IN ITS detailed order convicting a 57-year-old Catholic priest to life imprisonment for sexually assaulting a 12-year-old boyin a Mumbai church in 2015, the court has said that the heinous acts performed by the Father of the church has cast a life-long psychological and emotional impact on the child. It added that crimes like this by a person of trust and authority cannot be shown leniency.

“The accused is not a layman but a Father of the church, where people come to pray and confess through the Father. He acts as a bridge or a mediator between a man and God. He is seen with the highest degree of respect and authority by the common people and hence, is expected to lead his life accordingly. Such heinous acts by the Father of the church has casted a life-long psychological and emotional impact on the child,” Special Judge Seema Jadhav said in her order passed on Wednesday. It was made available on Friday.

On Wednesday, the court had found the priest, who was in charge of a church in the city, guilty of offences under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act for repeated aggravated penetrative sexual assault on the child on two occasions in August and November 2015.

“The offence has been committed by the accused when the child has just started to live and understand his life. Crimes like this by a person of trust and authority changes the perception of the child to look forward towards life in a positive way,” the court said, adding that such offences must therefore be dealt with sternly with “iron hands” and shown no leniency.

The priest, through his lawyers, had claimed innocence, denying the allegations. The lawyers had said that the prosecution’s case was improved upon with facts not mentioned initially in the FIR. They claimed that the FIR did not mention that after the incident came to light, the victim’s family had met the accused and confronted him.

While the incident had taken place on November 27, 2015, the FIR was filed on December 1. The issue of the delay in the FIR was also raised during the trial.

“What is not stated in the FIR is their (victim’s family) response to the incident, such as confronting the accused… approaching various religious superior authority of the accused, seeking justice. The first reaction as a prudent man would be to confront a person, especially when the accused is a Father of the religious institution and threat of being ostracised by society and the stigma of sexual offence cannot be lost sight of,” the court said.

The court was informed that that after the offence took place, the family had also approached the Archbishop of Mumbai. “It appears from the cross examination of the informant (victim’s father) that prior to approaching the police, he had discussion regarding the incident with Bishop, who is the highest authority of the Christian community,” the court said. It considered the explanation for the delay in the FIR, including a letter seeking justice written by the victim’s family to the Archbishop and acknowledged by his office on November 30, 2015.

The court considered other evidence, including the medical expert’s report and testimony. It said that the main evidence was that of the victim and his mother. It said that the victim’s testimony could not be shaken despite being cross examined exhaustively and it was enough to prove the guilt of the accused.

The accused remained in jail since his arrest in 2015 after his bail pleas were repeatedly rejected.

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