By Matters India Reporter
Ranchi, March 13, 2019: The Jharkhand High Court has granted bail to a Jesuit priest in the alleged abduction and gang rape of five women activists in Khunti district in 2018.
Allowing his bail petition on March 12, Justice A B Singh directed Father Alfonse Aind to deposit 15,000 rupees in the ‘Martyrs Fund’ set up for the families of deceased soldiers.
Father Aind was the principal of Jesuit-managed Stockmann Memorial Middle School in Kochang,a remote village in Khunti district, from where the women were abducted.
The bench also directed Father Aind not to leave Khunti district without the lower court’s permission and deposit his passport in the court.
Father Aind faced two cases and the High Court had granted him in the first case on February 7. However, he had to remain in the jail pending the investigation into the second case.
In the first case he was accused of being part of a conspiracy in the gang rape.
The second case, filed on June 21 by one Sanjay Sharma, accused him of illegal omission in reporting the case to police, administering a drug or poison with intent to commit an offense, criminal intimidation and fraudulent removal of property to prevent its seizure.
Church officials say all charges are fabricated amid a hostile atmosphere against Christians in the eastern Indian state since the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power in 2014.
The victims, all tribals, had visited the school on June 19, 2018, to stage a play against human trafficking when they were allegedly abducted, forcibly taken to a forest about 7-8 km from the school and gang-raped at gunpoint.
Jesuit Aind was arrested on June 22, 2018.
A trial court in Khunti district rejected Father Aind’s bail application on September 10 because the priest was associated with one of the main accused in the gang rape case and allegedly failed to stop the accused from abducting the women.
A lawyer for the priest, Jasminder Majumdar, told the court that the court statements of the alleged victims in the gang rape case have “glaring contradictions” which prove the priest has been falsely implicated.
Six men on motorcycles allegedly abducted the women, who were staging a street play at the school.
They also attacked some men, who were part of the street play team, and abducted at least two of them. Police claim the men were left on the edges of the forest before the alleged rapists moved inside the forest and raped the women.