Pune (Maharashtra) – On 21st October, three Pastors were charged under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) in a sexual assault case of a 15-year-old boy. While the primary accused in the case identified as Father Vincent Pereira is still absconding, two prominent Pastors have been booked for the sexual assault of the boy at his house in December last year.
When the alleged act was committed, Father Pereira (Age 56) was out on bail in another case of sexual misconduct. He had spent 18 months in Pune’s Yerwada jail in another POCSO case. The case dated back to 2018 when he assaulted a student studying in Class 8 while he acted as the Principal of St Patrick’s High School in the District. He also showed the boy pornographic videos and tortured him for worse. He was residing at Navsadhana Pastoral Centre after he was released on bail.
A priest who worked at a prominent English medium school in Pune and was booked on September 30 under the POCSO for alleged sexual abuse of a minor boy, was granted bail by a Pune court.https://t.co/EzwFwJfZlq
— HT Pune (@htpune) October 23, 2022
In the current case, Father Pereira, who was staying at a Pastoral Centre, visited the house and sexually assaulted the boy in December last year. The complaint stated that the family members of the boy informed Bishop Thomas Dabre (Age 77) of the Pune Diocese and Cardinal Oswald Gracias (Age 70), the Archbishop of Mumbai about the incident. However, the duo failed to act against Father Pereira. The family also alleged that they went to 5 Police stations over the next three months after the alleged assault, seeking an FIR, but a complaint was only filed after they approached two Pune-based activists in August.
Activists Maruti Bhapkar and Dominique Lobo also initially were not entertained until they contacted the Pune Police Commissioner on 17th August 2022. Later, they were compelled to go to the National Human Rights Commission in September which recorded the statements of the victim‘s family and issued a notice to the Police. On 30th September, an FIR was filed in response to Bhapkar’s complaint at the Hadapsar Police station, and the case was moved to Kondhwa.
Pune Police Commissioner Amitabh Gupta said that the prime accused in the case had been arrested and the investigations were underway to check on the other two accused. However, Kondhwa Police station Inspector Sardar Patil revealed, “Pereira is absconding but we will arrest him soon. We haven’t arrested the Bishop and the Cardinal as it seems they were not involved in the act, but we have not given them any clean chit. We have booked them for not reporting the crime despite being aware of it”.
Meanwhile, accused Bishop Thomas Dabre denied all the allegations and said, “This whole thing is fabricated. I only act according to Church law. You have to understand that I am beholden to the civil authorities whom I obey but I am also beholden to the Pope and his staff. I have reported the matter to them and I have been doing what I was told by them…My job was only to inform the Police, my job was not to file the FIR…I cannot go beyond my brief…I am in charge of the Pune Diocese and have to take care of many things”, he was quoted.