A special court has altered the charge against a priest accused of repeatedly sodomizing a 13-year-old boy from his parish in 2015, more stringent. If found guilty under the altered charge, the man would have to serve a minimum sentence of 20 years in jail.
Earlier the priest Johnson Lawrence was charged under Sec 3 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act. The provision is punishable with a minimum of ten years in jail and the punishment could extend to life in prison. The charge was altered to Sec 5(f) and 5(l) that deal respectively with anyone committing such a sexual assault being in the management of an educational or religious institution on a child of that institution and with committing such an assault repeatedly. These offences are punishable with a minimum of 20 years in jail and could extend up to life imprisonment.
Prosecutor Veena Shelar had sought the alteration of charge. She had argued that the accused was the father of the church and the incidents had taken place in the church itself. The man had opposed the step and claimed that the prosecution had not shown any record to show that he was the head of the church.
The court found that from the accusations levelled in the chargesheet, the ingredients of the charge are attracted. It then passed the order to alter the charge.