Complaint against Archbishop: Police call it a ‘misunderstanding’ and set to file closure report in court

MUMBAI Police are set to file a closure report in their investigation against the Archbishop and two bishops of the city in a complaint filed by the family of an underage boy, alleging they did not did not report the commission of a sexual offence.

The police prepared a closing report calling it a “C Summary” case. This is filed in cases where it is found that the complaint filed by a person is neither true nor false. The police claimed that the complaint was the result of a misunderstanding and therefore could not be taken further.

The report, which includes statements from people connected to the investigation, asks the magistrate court to accept the closing report so that the investigation can be considered complete and closed.

In 2015, a 12-year-old boy was sexually assaulted by a priest at a Catholic church in the city. The boy was assaulted twice by the priest. Following the second incident, the boy notified his parents on November 27, 2015.

In 2019, the boy’s father approached the special court in charge of the trial against the priest. The application he filed said that after the assault came to light, they called the zone bishop and informed him of the incident. It was claimed that they received no response, after which they went to the Archbishop’s house.

It was claimed they had to go home three times before having an appointment on November 30, 2015. The app said they had been given a five-minute appointment because the Archbishop was due to go in Rome.

The family had claimed that no action was taken by him to report the offense and therefore an offense under Section 19 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses Act (POCSO) should be filed against him and two bishops, who were also approached.

Pursuant to Section 19, it is obligatory for anyone who fears that a breach of the POCSO Act may have occurred or who has knowledge of it, to provide such information to a special juvenile police unit or the local police. The law provides for a six-month sentence or a fine or both for failing to report the commission of an offence.

The court then said there was no reference to the allegations in the witness statements, but a letter was presented acknowledging that they had visited the archbishop’s office. He had argued that there would be no point in adding them to the ongoing case against the priest, but had ordered the police to carry out an investigation in accordance with article 156 (3) of the Code of Criminal Procedure. Under this article, the police station is required to carry out a proper investigation and take the necessary measures.

“It was found that after the family met with the Archbishop, the FIR was filed within hours on December 1. There was no delay in reporting the breach. It was found that the complaint may have arisen from a misunderstanding and therefore it is concluded that the complaint can be classified as a summary case C,” an officer from the police station said.

After the special court order in 2019, the archbishop and two bishops went to the Bombay High Court to seek the order’s reversal. Pending the hearing, the HC had ordered that no enforcement action be taken against them.

In HC it was submitted on behalf of the Archbishop that immediately upon meeting the family he ordered an investigation to be carried out and also delegated an Auxiliary Bishop to oversee the hearings, contact the police and keep in touch with the family, as he was going to Rome the same day. The family said they had received no help and went to the police themselves.
Last month, the special court found the 56-year-old priest guilty of sexually assaulting a minor and sentenced him to life imprisonment. The archbishop in a statement said at the time that he was recommending that Roman services resume hearings by a committee in the Vatican, which could decide whether there are sufficient grounds to defrock the priest.

On Friday, while the police had seized the report to submit it to the district court, it was not filed due to a technicality. It should be filed on Saturday.

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