PANJIM: The trial of Adv. Aires Rodrigues and 14 others in the 2004 Ribandar Church case will continue on June 23rd at 10 am before the Panjim Judicial Magistrate First Class Mrs. Sarika Faldessai.  The Court will continue with the cross examination of Old Goa Police Sub Inspector H.L.Hanshakutti who had initially investigated the case. Inspector Braz Menezes who later investigated the case at the Crime Branch will also depose in Court as the last prosecution witness.
The trial is being held every Tuesday and Thusday to expedite the case as directed by the Bombay High Court at Goa. If convicted Adv. Aires Rodrigues and the other 14 accused could face upto two years imprisonment.
The government has over the last seven years been aggressively pursuing this case against Adv. Aires Rodrigues with the State having even challenged before the Sessions Court and later in the High Court Adv. Rodrigues’s earlier acquittal in the case.
It may be recalled that Panjim Chief Judicial Magistrate Mr. P.M.Shinde had on 22nd December 2009 directed that proceedings against Adv. Rodrigues in this case be stopped. The government however after unsuccessfully challenging that order before the Sessions Court later moved the High Court for which even a Special Public Prosecutor was appointed. Then Bombay High Court Justice N.A Britto while ruling that the trial proceed conceded to Adv. Rodrigues’s request that the case be expedited.
With the trial now on, the State finds itself in a dilemma with none of the prosecution witnesses so far having deposed against Adv. Aires Rodrigues. Infact with some of the witnesses going hostile the Assistant Public Prosecutor Mrs. Frances Noronha has had to cross examine her own witness. With the Investigating officer PSI Hanshakutti now contradicting the statements of the alleged eye witnesses it is a further blow to the prosecution case.
This is the second charge sheet filed by the police against Adv. Aires Rodrigues in connection with the Ribandar Church incident. While the current trial is on the complaint filed by Fr. Newton Rodrigues the earlier charge sheet was on the complaint by the Superior of Ajuda Convent at Ribandar Sister Celia Fernandes.
Acquitting Adv. Aires Rodrigues on 9th April 2009 in that case the then Panjim Judicial Magistrate First Class Mrs. Sharmila Patil had in her judgment stated that the allegations against Adv. Rodrigues seem to have been manipulated and that he was falsely implicated in the case. Judge Patil had also held that the possibility of the complaint against Adv. Rodrigues having been lodged due to political interference could not be ruled out.
The Court has already issued a warrant of arrest against Father Newton Rodrigues for not being present in court despite being summoned. It was on Fr. Newton Rodrigues’s complaint that Adv. Aires Rodrigues and 14 other Ribandar residents were charge sheeted for trespassing into the church corridor and disturbing a church committee meeting.
In 2004 Adv. Aires Rodrigues was leading an agitation demanding action against Fr. Newton Rodrigues for having allegedly molested a 13 year old girl from Ribandar. While Adv. Aires Rodrigues and others were charge sheeted for confronting Fr. Newton Rodrigues, the case filed against Fr.Newton Rodrigues by the mother of the 13 year old girl who was allegedly molested by Fr. Newton was closed after then Governor of Goa Mr. S.C Jamir reportedly intervened to save Fr. Newton Rodrigues from being charge sheeted.


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