RTI shows ex-Goa guv helped priest escape molestation charges

Minor girl was molested Devika Sequeira Panaji: Former Goa and Maharashtra governor S C Jamir directly intervened to stall police inon church premises

SC Jamir

The case is significant in the light of the child sexual abuse scandal that has rocked the Catholic Church recently over its cover-up of the endemic clerical abuse. During his visit to the UK last month, Pope Benedict XVI had expressed “deep sorrow for the unspeakable crimes.”

A former chief minister of Nagaland,  Jamir served as governor of Goa from 2004 to July 2008 after which he was moved to Maharashtra.

The case in question dates back to 2004 when an FIR was lodged against a Goa parish priest for molesting a minor girl on church premises.

Fr Newton Rodrigues, who served as parish priest at Ribandar church at the time, was booked under Section 354 of the Indian Penal Code and Section 8(2) of the Goa Children’s Act by the Old Goa police.

In her complaint, the girl’s mother had said her daughter, 13, was in the church with a group of children when the priest, on the pretext of hearing her confession, led her into his bedroom where he molested her.

After preliminary investigations, the superintendent of police directed that the priest be chargesheeted. The director of prosecution concurred and a draft chargesheet was made out on August 30, 2004. But soon after, Jamir intervened, says activist lawyer Aires Rodrigues, who accessed the documents.

The governor’s notings show he asked for the papers to be referred to the advocate general and the public prosecutor for their opinion and directed that the file be sent back to him before a final decision was taken on whether to prosecute the priest or not.

 Almost a year after the incident, the file on the case was back before Jamir and in August 2005 the police told the Children’s Court that it wanted the case against the priest to be closed.

The RTI activist says while the Crime Branch let the priest off, 13 residents of Ribandar village, including an 80-year-old widow and he, were chargesheeted for entering the church to question the priest on the molestation case.

The courts have twice dismissed the charges against the lawyer, but the police continue to persecute him and the others and have filed an appeal before the high court.
Meanwhile, Fr Newton Rodrigues is believed to have been relieved of his duties.

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