Having reposed trust in 'faith,' they languish in jail

Having reposed trust in 'faith,' they languish in jail

Having reposed trust in 'faith,' they languish in jail

Theirs is a tale straight out of a Bollywood film. Trusting some priests implicitly, they now languish in jail for no fault of theirs. Their crime: helping the institution they work for in its hour of crisis. How these men came to such a pitiable pass is a tantalising tale in itself.

It all began with the demolition of a house on Patrao Road in Karangalpady here, where 58-year-old John Baptist Lewis resided with his two daughters – Savitha and Melita.
The authorities of St Aloysius College, Mangalore, demolished the house claiming that the property belonged to St Aloysius Institute, as the deceased owner Alice D’Souza had bequeathed it to the institute before she passed away in 1990.

Lewis, however, counters that Alice D’Souza, for whom he was working, had willed it in his name. But what have Kiran, 23, Shivu, 28, Kishan, 21, and Yamunappa, 21, got to do with legal spat between the college and Lewis?

The four (as well as the priests) have been charged under Sections 143 (unlawful assembly), 147 (rioting), 148 (armed with deadly weapon), 447 (criminal trespass), 323 (voluntary causing hurt), 342 (wrongful confinement), 354 (outraging modesty of woman), 307 (attempt to murder), 395 (dacoity), 427 (causing damage) and 445 (housebreak).

According to the First Information Report (FIR), the prime accused in the case is Fr Cyril D’Mello, one of the administrators of St Aloysius Institute, and the second accused is Fr Francis Almeida. Both are untraceable.

When the house was demolished on June 26, Lewis, propped by PUCL, filed a complaint, based on which the Mangalore North police filed the FIR against the two priests and 40 others.

Going by a priest’s account, the police were under tremendous pressure to arrest “somebody”, as it was over 24 hours after the FIR was lodged. The convenient fall guys being the four.

Kiran from Hassan district, a St Aloysius College employee, was summoned by Fr D’Mello on June 27 around 4 pm. On arrival, he was counselled to ‘help’ the college by accompanying the other three to the police.

Likewise, Shivu from Belgaum, a gardener; Kishan belonging to Karkala, a supervisor, and Yamunappa, a tipper lorry driver and native of Bagalkot, were advised similarly.
The four were promised that after a token visit to the police station, they could return in half an hour. They were directed to sign a few papers stating they were party to, and witnessed, the house demolition.

Ordeal begins

Given the unimpeachable credentials of the institution and its inmates, the four courted arrest. However, their ordeal began when their bail applications filed by lawyers on behalf of the priests were rejected by the district court as well as the High Court, as some of the charges against them are very strong.

“It’s over a month and we don’t even know the charges against us,” said the aggrieved. Shivu said his in-laws were refusing to buy his story and had taken away their daughter and 18-month-old child, leaving him to his fate.

Kiran, the only breadwinner of his family of two young brothers and aged parents back home in Hassan, wonders how he will be able to face societal sanction after spending time in prison.

Yamunappa, who has lost faith in his benefactors, bemoans, “If I had committed a mistake, it would have been different,” for he is behind bars after taking that call from his contractor. Compounding his agony is the possibility of his tipper lorry being seized, as he is unable to repay the loan being in prison and with the vehicle lying idle.

Fr Melwyn Pinto, on behalf of the college, said he tried to explain the situation to the four. He averred that the institution would make all efforts to bail them out.

The priests are contemplating approaching the Supreme Court. The police said the option before the priests was to apply for bail in the Supreme Court or surrender, confessing that the four in the prison are innocent.

Lewis, who knows two out of the four arrested (they are his neighbours), said they were not involved in the demolition. “The priests have trapped them, just like the way they cheated me.”