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Updated: April 23, 1991 05:00 PM GMT
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A team of social activists that probed events following the murder of two Catholic nuns in Bombay accused police of "grave dereliction of duty" and the press of "unethical" behavior in sensationalizing the crime.

The team´s April 12 report demands that the source of "scandalous press reports" on the nuns be ascertained through an impartial enquiry into the conduct of people connected with the murder victims´ autopsy.

The report, by representatives of various voluntary organizations and individuals, maintains that the "sensationalized" newspaper reports on the sexual activities of the victims were "unscientific and unwarranted."

Franciscan Sisters of Saint Mary of Angels Sylvia D´Souza and Priya J. Devasia Kudakassery were found murdered on Nov. 16, 1990, at Snehasadan (abode of love) a home for street children at Jogeshwari, a Bombay suburb.

No arrest has been made and the police have yet to ascertain the motive behind the crime.

Soon after the murder, some leading national newspapers and local tabloids quoted a "leaked" postmortem report to allege that the murdered nuns led an immoral life and that one of them had a venereal disease.

The probe team claims to have met a number of individuals, and examined documents to investigate the press reports and the conduct of the police.

The investigation proved that one or more than one persons fed misinformation to the press, the report says.

It demands an enquiry by an impartial authority into the conduct of "a high level police officer, a high level authority in the coroner´s court or the doctors who did the postmortem," to find the source of the leak to the press.

The report alleges that "the police investigations are one-track and biased," and that they "deliberately refuse to consider vital evidence ... (and) possible involvement of an outside gang."

It asks that the Maharashtra state government and the police "tone up" their investigation procedures to uphold the truth and book "the real culprits."

Amar Jesani of the Human Rights Cell told a press conference in Bombay that the preliminary postmortem report has "no conclusive finding" to support the claim that the "deceased nuns were habituated to sexual intercourse."

The report criticizes the police for failure to take "firm measures to safeguard evidence, thus contributing deliberately to the obliteration" of vital clues that could have helped solve the murders.

Other police lapses, the report enumerates, include failure to seal the site of the murder, willful neglect in conducting a "panchanama" (a statement of the physical state of the victims and the crime site, attested by witnesses) and allowing Snehasadan authorities to clean the site, "thus destroying all possible evidence."

The probe team laments that the newspaper editors who privately admit their "grave error" in publishing the maligning reports "refuse to publicly apologize ... for their totally irresponsible and unethical conduct."

Bombay Catholics asked newspapers Jan. 26 to publish an apology for publishing the scandalous reports. No newspaper has responded so far.

On Feb. 27, the Bombay High Court gave the city police 30 days to find the source of the misleading reports. The police have yet to comply.


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