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Delhi court rejects plea for probe into clergy abuse claims

Public interest litigation argued state investigations needed because church authorities ignored sex abuse complaints

Delhi court rejects plea for probe into clergy abuse claims

Catholics celebrate the feast of Christ the King on Nov. 25, 2018, at the Cathedral of Sacred Heart in Delhi Archdiocese. The Delhi High Court has dismissed a plea seeking to establish special teams to investigate claims of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy. (Photo by Bijay Kumar Minj/ucanews.com)

Published: January 31, 2019 03:32 AM GMT

Updated: January 31, 2019 03:39 AM GMT

A high court in India has dismissed a request for special teams to investigate allegations of sexual abuse of children and nuns by Catholic priests.

The Delhi High Court dismissed the public interest litigation of Sanjjiiv Kkumar for the federal and Delhi state governments to create such investigative teams.

The state court of the national capital territory declined on Jan. 29 to entertain the plea, saying it contained no specific incidents on record other than a recent allegation made by a Kerala nun that a bishop sexually abused her, which is still under investigation.

"We'll not look into all this. Dismissed," the two-judge bench of Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and Justice V.K. Rao said.

The plea also wanted the Delhi government to set up a telephone hotline so that victims of clergy sex abuse could seek help.

In his plea, Kkumar also claimed that church authorities ignored allegations of sex attacks on a nun at a Catholic retreat in Delhi despite the nun writing an anonymous letter. Kkumar’s source of such information was not mentioned in the plea.

The plea argued that given that church authorities have ignored complaints of clergy sex abuse an investigative system was needed to seek justice for victims.

The case on record that Kkumar’s plea referred to is based on a June 2018 police complaint made by a nun which accused Bishop Franco Mulakkal of Jalandhar of rape. The nun has claimed the bishop raped her multiple times between 2014 and 2016 when he visited her convent in Kerala.

The plea claimed that since Bishop Mulakkal was auxiliary bishop of Delhi Archdiocese from 2009-13, there was a “possibility” that he sexually attacked women in Delhi during that period.

Plea refuted as absurd

Father J. Felix, secretary of Delhi Archdiocesan Commission for Ecumenism and Interfaith Dialogue, said the plea and its logic are absurd.

“[It is] highly malicious, it is targeting a peace-loving community and its spiritual leaders,” said Father Felix.

The Church and its social workers are “relentlessly fighting to safeguard the rights and dignity of impoverished people,” he said.

“This seems to have irked some vested interests and now they are out to discredit us to keep people away from us.”

The Divine Word priest said such petitions and propaganda are part of “well-orchestrated agenda” to tarnish the image of church people as law breakers and sexual predators so to scare away people from the Church.” 

The court “did the right thing” he said. “It’s highly inappropriate to use the platform of the court to tarnish the image of a community.”

He said the Catholic Church has “a system to deal with any excess, abuses or other offences” accessible to all Catholics.

Presentation Sister Anastasia Gill, member of the Delhi government’s Commission for Minorities, said any person with “goodwill can file a public interest litigation but, in this case, the element of goodwill becomes doubtful.”

The petition revolves around the Kerala case and seems to be taking inspiration from litigation involving clergy sex abuse cases in Europe, said the lawyer nun.

“This may well be an attempt to shame or demoralize the Church,” she said.

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