Decades after testifying on sex abuse in Canada, Indian doctor wanted for sexual assault therehttps://indianexpress.com/article/india/decades-after-testifying-on-sex-abuse-in-canada-indian-doctor-wanted-for-sexual-assault-there-4855337/

Decades after testifying on sex abuse in Canada, Indian doctor wanted for sexual assault there

As a practising psychiatrist in St John’s in Newfoundland in the 1970s, Dr Omesh Chandra Kashyap had a role in blowing the lid off Canada’s first and the world’s biggest paedophilia scandal, involving the Roman Catholic Church.

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In the mid-1970s, there were allegations of physical and sexual abuse at the orphanage. (Representational)

As a practising psychiatrist in St John’s in Newfoundland in the 1970s, Dr Omesh Chandra Kashyap had a role in blowing the lid off Canada’s first and the world’s biggest paedophilia scandal, involving the Roman Catholic Church. He returned to India in 1991 claiming threats to life, only to be charged with sexual assault himself. Accusing him of having assaulted his former patients, Canada sought his extradition to stand trial.

A trial court granted the sanction, the Delhi High Court upheld it, but now the Supreme Court has stayed the extradition. Issuing a notice to the government, a bench of Justices Ranjan Gogoi and Navin Sinha sought to know “why the matter should not be remanded for reconsideration by the Union of India”.

Kashyap’s contention was that the government had not taken into consideration the “circumstances” that had led to the extradition request. Reached for comments, Kashyap, now 77, said, “The case is still sub judice. I cannot comment on it now.” For the “circumstances”, The Indian Express went through records before the additional chief metropolitan magistrate (ACMM), Patiala House Courts, who had conducted the extradition enquiry.

From whistleblower…

Kashyap had moved to St John’s in 1967. The town had an orphanage, Mount Cashel Boys’ Home, run by a respected 200-year-old Roman Catholic lay order, the Christian Brothers of Ireland in Canada (CBIC).

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In the mid-1970s, there were allegations of physical and sexual abuse at the orphanage. According to Kashyap, in 1976, he “was asked to submit the Psychiatry Report for a child’s wardship to the Court of Judge Reid… The petitioner having examined the said child, submitted a report, which exposed the widespread beatings and sexual abuses of the children in distress”.

The stories of abuse, however, remained under wraps amid a series of alleged cover-ups. It hit the headlines in 1989, when Michael Harris, editor of the Sunday Express weekly in St John’s, interviewed a victim.

Amid widespread anger, the orphanage was closed, sold and razed to the ground. Many more CBIC assets faced liquidation proceedings to enable payment of court-ordered compensation to the victims. Many priests were arrested, and St John’s archbishop Alphonsus L Penney forced to resign.

In 1991, Kashyap returned to New Delhi, a decision he would later attribute to “widespread resentment against him” for testifying against officials of the local government, police and the church before a Royal Commission, headed by retired Justice Samuel H S Hughes, in 1991. The commission report endorsed the cover-up charges.

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In the ACMM court, Kashyap submitted a book by journalist Harris, Unholy Order, Tragedy at Mount Cashel, that mentions his role in exposing the scandal: “On June 24, 1976, two weeks before Frankie Baird’s temporary Wardship hearing, Dr Omesh Kashyap wrote a report, at the request of the court, dealing with the troubled family. Fourteen years later, a copy of the document would be found in the files of the Justice Department. Once more, Kashyap’s report contained direct reference to allegations from Mrs Baird (Strickland) of physical and sexual abuse of Frankie during his stay at Mount Cashel…”

The Indian Express got in touch with Harris, who confirmed that he had quoted from Dr Kashyap’s report. In an email, a spokesperson said, “Michael was not in touch with Kashyap while writing the book. He had access to the Kashyap court report… Dr Kashyap made direct reference in 1976 to physical and sexual abuse at the orphanage. His report confirmed other allegations made at the time.”

… To accused

In Delhi, Kashyap started practising as a senior consultant psychiatrist with some hospitals. In 2003, the Indian government received the extradition request from the Canadian High Commission. Kashyap had been charged on four counts — one each of indecent assault and gross indecency and two of sexual assault — on three of his former patients. The first two alleged offences occurred between December 1978 and May 1980, the third in February 1990 and the last between January and March 1990.

In the ACMM court, Kashyap contended that“the present case is an issue of political and religious persecution and a depravity of unthinkable magnitude… falsely implicated in the instant matter out of vengeance and gigantic scandal in the year 1975-76”. He offered to be tried in India if need be.

In his report in March 2015, the ACMM cleared the extradition saying the role of the extradition enquiry was limited and was “not required to appreciate the evidence on merits”. The court said “the contentions raised by the counsel for the fugitive criminal,can be considered during trial only”. The Ministry of External Affairs, Externment Section, “communicated to Kashyap that it intends to accept the report”. The doctor then approached Delhi High Court, which upheld the ACMM report.

Kashyap noted he “has been living in Canada from 1967 till March 1991 and no proceedings was ever initiated for the alleged offence of 1978 to 1980 when the respondent was admittedly living in Canada till March 1991 and had been appearing before various authorities of the Canadian government…” He demanded that the Hughes Commission proceedings be produced before the ACMM court, which never happened.