Newly appointed Judicial Magistrate First Class Sarika Phaldesai will now hear the trial against Aires Rodrigues and 14 other residents of Ribandar who have been charge sheeted following a complaint by the then Parish Priest of the Ribandar Church Fr. Newton Rodrigues.
It may be recalled that Fr. Newton had complained to the police against Adv. Aires and 14 for having trespassed into the church premises and disturbed a meeting of the church committee.
The issue arose from the complaint of a minor 13 year old girl’s mother complaining to the police that Fr. Newton had molested her child and while the police closed down the investigations in the mother’s complaint, charge sheeted the parishioners who had taken up the issue against the priest.
Interestingly, when the hearing resumes on 19th May, the State will be represented by a new Assistant Public Prosecutor Tema Narvekar as the earlier APP Ralston Baretto has been relieved of the case following a complaint that he was deliberately delaying the proceedings in connivance with the church authorities.
JMFC Sarika Phaldesai will also have to decide upon the application moved by Adv. Aires to issue a standing non-bailable warrant against Fr. Newton on account of his failure to be present in the court for the hearing.
Fr. Newton who belonged to the Archdiocese of Goa has since then migrated to Canada and is currently serving as a Pastor to the St. Bernadette Church at Calgary in Western Canada.
The original First Information Report was filed on 18th August 2004 against Fr. Newton by the child’s mother who had complained that under the pretext of hearing a confession, the priest had taken her minor daughter to his room and molested her. The FIR was registered under Section 354 of the Indian Penal Code and Section 8(2) of the Goa Children’s (Protection) Act.
And though the then Superintendent of Police (Crime) and Director of Prosecution had opined that it was a fit case for charge sheeting the priest, the then Governor of Goa S C Jamir reportedly intervened and directed that the case be closed.
However the Archdiocese of Goa apparently took a serious note of the developments and relieved Fr. Newton who has since moved to Canada.