An Indian cardinal has protested after police dropped a case against two men accused of raping a nun.
Cardinal Oswald Gracias, Archbishop of Bombay, said the acquittal of the suspects in Chhattisgarh state "is a grave injustice, not only for our consecrated, but also for all women who have suffered a similar trauma."
Dinesh Dhurv, 19 and 25-year old Jitendra Pathak, were alleged to have drugged, tied up and gang raped the 48-year old sister of the Salesian Missionaries of Mary Immaculate (SMMI), at the nuns' medical centre in the state capital, Raipur, in June 2015. They were released by a fast-track court on January 5 because of 'lack of evidence'.
Cardinal Gracis, who is also president of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences said he believed that investigations were compromised beyond repair by the "halfhearted attitude of the police," who failed to protect the crime scene and did not collect the traces of the attackers from the victim's body.
According to Cardinal Gracias, "this acquittal once again brings to our attention the problem of violence against women. It is a huge setback for all of us working for the rights and dignity of women, in particular victims of violence."
"India's Catholic Church will demand justice from a higher court. We will challenge the verdict on appeal," the Cardinal stated.
The state representatives of the Congress party and the Chhattisgarh Christian Forum have called the incident a "systematic attack against minorities in the State". For its part, the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India (CBCI) has reported that such incidents raise serious questions about the safety and protection of minorities in India. Since the beginning, the Christian leaders have complained about serious shortcomings in the conduct of enquiry by investigators, who had not collected blood, urine and other fluid samples to determine the hallucinogenic substance used to drug the missionary.
Cardinal Gracias warned that their acquittal would bring serious social consequences and could create problems of public order. "The worrying fact is that low conviction rates inflict damage and represent a danger for the victims and for society as a whole," he said.