Archbishop to face court trial in priest “poisoning” case
By Matters India Reporter
Bhopal: A Catholic archbishop in central India may soon face trial along with his two officials for allegedly conspiring to poison a priest.
“Now all the accused will have to appear in the trial court,” Rajesh Chand, the lawyer of Father Anand Muttungal, the alleged victim, told Matters India on April 19, a week after the High Court of Madhya Pradesh state allowed Archbishop Leo Cornelio of Bhopal to withdraw his appeal. The Divine Word prelate had gone to the court to seek quashing of Father Muttungal’s case.
The priest had filed a complaint in a lower court in Bhopal, the state capital, that the prelate along with his vicar general Father VC Mathew and archdiocese spokesman Father PJ Johny had conspired to make him mentally unstable through slow poisoning. On February 7, 2013, a magistrate ordered the registering of a case against the three accused. Father Muttungal, an activist priest, was the former archdiocesan public relations officer.
The prelate then went to the high court for the case’s dismissal.
On April 12, the high court agreed to the request of the prelate’s counsel, Vasant Daneil, to withdraw his plea regarding the case titled “Leo Cornelio Versus Anand Muttungal.”
The judge J K Maheshwari dismissed the petition “as not pressed with the liberty.”
The court allowed this after Daniel argued “at length” and the priest’s counsel responded. Daniel then told the court that the prelate did not want to press his petition further. The appellate court also agreed to the prelate’s lawyer plea that he would present his side of the case in the trial court.
Father Muttungal’s lawyer said the prelate and his officials can approach the High Court again if they are not satisfied with the trial.
The case alleges that Father Muttungal’s superiors targeted him after he accused them of mismanaging the archdiocese.
As the case was first filed, Archbishop Cornelio dismissed the allegations as baseless and said he suspected behavioral problems in the priest.
The prelate then told media persons that he had consulted psychiatrists about the matter and they advised medicines. However, the plan was abandoned later as the priest began behaving normal, he added.
The prelate also alleged that Father Muttungal had tried to challenge his authority and discredit the Church with malicious intent.
Father Muttungal on the other hand said he had gone to the court after he failed to receive response from a police complaint he filed soon after he became aware of the alleged conspiracy against him.
Father KP Philip, a Bhopal archdiocesan priest, submitted an affidavit in the court supporting Father Muttungal’s allegations.
According to the affidavit, Father Philip had accompanied the archbishop and vicar general to a psychiatrist in December 2012, where they discussed with the doctor a plan to render Father Muttungal mentally unstable. Father Philip said he refused to be a party to the plan and informed Father Muttungal.
The affidavit alleged the diocesan officials pressured Father Philip to add drugs in Father Muttungals’s food and drink. But he refused.
The then archdiocese spokesman said Father Muttungal had rebelled when he was removed from the post of public relation officers after seven years. Father Johny also alleged Father Muttungal suffered from fear psychosis and believed that he could get his way through threats.
The court filed the case against the accused based on the submissions of Father Philip and other evidence including audio-visual materials.
If convicted, the accused could spend up to ten years in jail.