Jyoti Senior Secondary School, Rewa (Facebook)
Jyoti Senior Secondary School, Rewa (Facebook)

An archbishop in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh has said the sex offence allegation against a priest, who is the principal of a church-run school in the state, is another case of harassment against local Christians, reports UCA News.

The archbishop, Leo Cornelio, who is based in the Madhya Pradesh state capital, Bhopal, said “the real facts were distorted and a false case was registered against the priest”, 40-year-old Father Sebastian Panthalluparambil, Principal of Jyoti Senior Secondary School in Rewa, who has not yet been arrested.

Police filed criminal charges against Panthalluparambil after a 17-year-old girl complained that he had “inappropriately touched” her during a visit to his office.

Another bishop, Joseph Kodakallil, said “this is totally a baseless and false complaint” as proven by CCTV footage of the principal’s office, which has been shared with the police.

This is not the first time in Madhya Pradesh that a Catholic priest has been similarly charged. In July the parents of a boy who attended the church-run Amar Jyoti School alleged the school’s manager, Father Leo D’Souza, 56, had tried to abuse their son. Local church leaders, however, expressed concern that Fr D’Souza may have been framed to undermine the reputation of the local Christian community.

In both cases Christian leaders raised the issue of on-going intimidation of Christians by hard-line Hindu groups.