Bail for priest accused of molestation

Judge puts strict restrictions on release
An Indian court granted bail on Thursday to a Catholic priest detained for more than a week on accusations that he molested and attempted to rape a female student in Pune.

The court granted bail to Salesian Father Igidius Falcao, 61, but imposed strict conditions on his release, which was effected with a personal bond of 50,000 rupees (about US$1,000) and one solvent surety of the same amount.

The priest was ordered to visit a local police station “between 10am and 12 noon every Sunday to facilitate the police investigation,” according to the ruling by Special Judge Vinay Joshi, who presided over the hearing.

Fr Falcao, who serves as vice-principal of the National Institute of Open Schooling’s study center at Don Bosco high school, was arrested on January 21 after a 14-year-old student complained that he had attempted to rape her in his office earlier in the month.

The court further ordered Fr Falcao not to enter or teach in classes where the victim and witnesses were studying and prohibited him from any administrative work related to victims or witnesses.

“He shall not directly or indirectly make any inducement, threat or promise to any person acquainted with the facts of the case,” the court ruling stated, adding that he was also prohibited from leaving the country without the court’s permission and changing his place of residence and mobile contact number without the court’s prior consent.

Fr Falcao denied all accusations against him during his bail plea. His lawyer, Harshad Nimbalkar, argued that the alleged victim had lodged a police complaint only after an inordinate delay.

Nimbalkar also told the court that Fr Falcao was a renowned teacher and that allegations against him could have been the result of professional jealousy on the part of colleagues.

However police sub-inspector Reshma Mulani, who is investigating the case, opposed the bail request in court, saying that the priest’s release would put pressure on witnesses.

She added that this was not the first time accusations of sexual abuse were made against him.

“Father Falcao had resigned from a school in Thane, near Mumbai, following allegations of indecent behavior with a minor girl in 1996,” she told the court.

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