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Priest sexually assaults, threatens 12-year-old boy, gets life imprisonment

The 57-year-old priest was found guilty for aggravated penetrative sexual assault and sexual harassment under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.

The boy's father had in 2019 sought to include the Archbishop of Mumbai and two bishops as accused in the case for failing to report the commission of a sexual offence after being informed about it.

SIX YEARS after a priest at a church in Mumbai was booked for sexual assault on a 12-year-old boy, a special court on Wednesday sentenced him to life imprisonment.

The 57-year-old priest was found guilty for aggravated penetrative sexual assault and sexual harassment under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act. Special Judge Seema Jadhav also directed that the boy be paid compensation by the District Legal Service Authority.

The prosecution led by Special Public Prosecutor Veena Shelar had told the court that nine witnesses, including the boy and his parents, had deposed in the case. She had added that the medical evidence corroborated the boy’s testimony. The minor had said that the assault had taken place twice in August and in November, 2015.

The boy had told the court that on November 27, 2015, he and his younger brother were at the church when the priest asked him to remove decorations put up for a programme. The younger brother was asked to remove the decorations from the outside gate.

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The boy had alleged that the accused followed him in the room and sexually assaulted him. He also said that in August 2015, he was similarly assaulted by the priest. He claimed that he was threatened by the accused that he would be cut into pieces if he did not keep quiet.

After the incident in November, when the boy reached home, his mother noticed that he was bleeding. When asked, he told her about the assault. An FIR was subsequently lodged at a police station.

Last month, the prosecution sought to alter the charges against the priest to include sections 5(f) and 5 (l) of the POCSO Act for aggravated penetrative sexual assault, as he was part of a religious institution as the priest-in-charge and because the assault had taken place more than once.

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The court had allowed the plea. On Wednesday, it found the accused guilty under these two sections as well.
While arguing on the quantum of sentence, Shelar said the accused knew that the boy’s family came from a financially weak background and hence, took advantage of it. She added that the accused was looked up to as the head of a religious institution and the incident traumatised the boy.

During the trial, the accused had, through his lawyers, examined two defence witnesses, including a receptionist and a staffer of the church, to dispute the presence of the boy at the church on the day of the incident.

The boy’s father had in 2019 sought to include the Archbishop of Mumbai and two bishops as accused in the case for failing to report the commission of a sexual offence after being informed about it. The court had directed the police to probe the allegations while stating that no purpose would be served by joining them as accused in the ongoing trial.

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The Bombay High Court then had granted them relief against coercive action till the petition seeking quashing of the special court’s order is decided upon. It remains pending.

First published on: 30-12-2021 at 01:42 IST
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