By Matters India Reporter
New Delhi, November 4, 2019: A Catholic priest in Madhya Pradesh has been charged with cheating and forgery.
Father Anand Muttungal, the former spokesperson and public relation officer of the Catholic Church the central Indian state, claims he is innocent and terms the case as a pressure tactic to force him withdraw his case against Archbishop Leo Cornelio of Bhopal.
The Economic Offence Wing (EOW), a special branch of the state police that probes economic offenses, lodged a First Information Report (FIR) on October 17 against the 47-year-old priest.
The case registered with EOW police station in Bhopal, the state capital, accuses Father Muttungal of indulging in cheating, forgery, criminal conspiracy, criminal breach of trust, and forging documents.
The priest is the first among eight people named as accused in the case.
Father Muttungal told Matters India that the case is a fall out of his case against Archbishop Cornelio.
In 2017, the priest had filed a police complaint alleging that the archbishop and two priests had conspired to make him mentally unstable through slow poisoning. The case is still pending before the court.
The forgery case was registered on the basis of a complaint lodged in April 2017 by a group of people led by one G.G. John against Father Muttungal and others.
The complainants accused a real estate firm – St. Jude Colonizers – of duping money from 377 people after promising them residential plots on the outskirts of Bhopal.
John Cherian is the president of the firm registered in 2009 while Richard D’Silva, Vipin Toppo, Roy John Thatta, Jerry Paul and Saji Thomas are its members. Only Toppo and Thatta are accused in the case.
However, Father Muttungal is not a member of the society, although he is named the main accused in the forgery case. The police’s preliminary findings say the priest, as the archdiocesan PRO, had allegedly conspired with Toppo and Thatta, one of his employees, to dupe the home buyers.
Father Muttungal has accused D’Silva, Paul, (Archbishop) Cornelio and a journalist of trying to blackmail him. He also claimed that he has filed a police complaint against them in the TT Nagar police station.
According to the priest, the four have asked him money to get his name dropped from the EOW case and end media coverage against him.
Father Muttungal has not shared documents to support the police complaint or as evidence of the blackmailing.
However, he shared copy of a two-page handwritten letter sent to him by one Father P Chinnappan. It reads: “I received a call from Fr Rajamanickam to compromise with (Archbishop) Leo Cornelio to settle the ongoing case in the Bhopal district court.”
Reacting to the charges against him, Archbishop Cornelio told Matters India, “Whatever happens in (Muttungal’s) life, he blames me.”
“He has a tendency to blame me for all his deprivations ever since he was transferred from the post of archdiocesan public relation officer in 2016,” the prelate explains.
The archbishop also pointed out that Father Muttungal has filed six “false cases against the diocesan society and me leveling charges such as corruption and attempting to slow poisoning to make him insane.”
The prelate said he came to know about the forgery case from media reports.
“This may be another case, I am not aware of it yet. I welcome any probe as I always believe that truth will prevail at the end.”
The archbishop dismissed the blackmailing charge. “What sort of blackmailing can I do with him when I have always insisted that all the cases he has filed against me will be fought in the court,” he added.
When contacted, Jerry Paul expressed surprise at the blackmailing charges against him.
“I am not aware of any such case filed against me yet,” the layman told Matters India.
Paul, however, maintained that St Jude Colonizers was formed under the control and monitoring of Father Muttungal in his capacity as the archdiocesan PRO.
All society meetings from the beginning until Father Muttungal left the PRO office were held under his direct guidance, Paul alleged.
He also said Father Muttungal “cunningly did not become a member of the society and now claims he is not involved in it. But the fact is that it was he who called the shot in the real estate firm.”
When contacted, D’Silva refused to comment.