A 52-year-old clergyman was arrested on Wednesday night on charges of sexually abusing two minor girls at his shelter home here. The priest, Johnson Chacko, was booked under relevant sections of Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, while his wife was held on Thursday after the police recorded statements of the alleged victims.
According to initial investigation, it was found that Chacko had been sexually abusing the two minors for a couple of years. The girls were lodged at Mercy Home, a shelter home for destitute children, run by Chacko and his wife in Tara Nagar. The matter came to light after one of the girls confided in her teacher at a nearby school. The school principal then called the police, who raided the shelter home late on Wednesday and also arrested Chacko.
The alleged victims told the police that they had complained to Chacko’s wife about him touching them “inappropriately”, but she instead asked them to “keep quiet because he is like the God”. The two girls were sent for medical examination on Thursday.
All the 19 inmates, aged between 7 and 12, have been shifted to a government shelter home. The inmates have collectively complained that they were ill-treated and beaten up with metal rods, and also poorly fed.
They alleged that Chacko misbehaved and also sexually abused them, the police officials said.
DGP Omendra Bhardwaj said, “We will conduct a survey and prepare a list of all shelter homes in the state that are running without a licence. A copy will be sent to the respective district collectors, and it will be ensured that all such illegal homes be shut down.”
“We will ensure a chargesheet is filed within a month. It was shocking to learn of the atrocities meted out to the children at the home. We are taking strict action against those involved in the case,” Social Justice Minister Arun Chaturvedi said.
State Women Commission chairperson Lad Kumari Jain told The Indian Express, “We will hold a separate inquiry into the incident and speak to the inmates at length on Friday. The government will have to intervene and ensure that action is taken at the state level so that no such incident recurs in other shelter homes across the state. This is the fourth such incident reported in the state recently and has become a shocking trend.”