The Madras High Court has upheld the arrest of a Catholic priest from Tamil Nadu,charged with abusing a minor girl in the US,facilitating his extradition to face justice in that country. A Division Bench comprising Justices Dhanapalan and C T Selvam dismissed the petition filed by the priest’s sister Pushpavathi,seeking to quash his arrest on the ground that there was a delay in producing him in Delhi and his continued incarceration amounted to illegal detention.
The bench rejected her plea and facilitated the priest’s extradition contending that the crime is a “first degree criminal sexual conduct.” Additional Solicitor General G Masilamani had pointed out that there was a valid extradition treaty with the US since 1999 and that the US has furnished all relevant documents validating its extradition request. 58-year-old Fr Joseph Palanivel Jeyapaul of Udhagamandalam is accused of sexually abusing a 14-year old girl repeatedly,when he was parish priest in a Minnesota church in 2004.
Criminal charges were framed against him in December 2006,US authorities said. The priest had returned to India in 2005 to be with his ailing mother,who was critically ill. US Consul General in Delhi,in a diplomatic note to the Ministry of External Affairsin in 2011,had sought his extradition,saying that his crime carried a 30 year jail punishment.
The MEA had approached the Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate of Patiala House court in New Delhi to determine whether the request was in order and if a prima facie charge existed against the priest. In 2011,the ministry had filed an application for the arrest warrant against Jeyapaul after which he was arrested in Erode district in March 2012,produced in Delhi court and lodged in Tihar jail.