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Bombay HC orders Goa Crime Branch to register an FIR in activist-priest Fr Bismarque Dias’ mysterious death, report every 3 months

In a major victory for activists in Goa fighting for Justice for Fr Bismarque Dias – the Catholic priest turned activist who took on the land mafia, the Bombay High Court bench in Panaji on Tuesday directed the Crime Branch of Goa Police to file an FIR in connection with the mysterious death of the former Roman Catholic priest.

The Crime Branch has also been asked to submit a status report of the investigation every three months to the court.

Dias, who was protesting against rampant and reportedly illegal real estate development near his village of St. Estevam, 15 km from Panaji, was found dead in a water body near the Mandovi river in November 2015.

Activists as well as opposition parties alleged the priest could have been done to death for opposing illegal real estate deals in the ecologically fragile parts of the Tiswadi sub-district, while police, which conducted the preliminary enquiry, had ruled out mischief claiming the former priest had drowned while swimming.

Speaking to reporters after the order was pronounced, Sudeep Dalvi, one of the several persons campaigning for a formal investigation into the death of the former priest, has called the court’s direction, a vindication of their contention that Dias’ death was suspicious and that the police had conducted a cover-up.

“This is a slap on the face of state government, in general, and the police department, in particular. It is a victory for all supporters of Fr. Bismarque and environment lovers in Goa,” Dalvi said.

The only major demand of the activists including Dalvi and Kennedy Afonso was the police must register and FIR. Commenting on social media, Afonso recently posted that the police refused to file an FIR everytime something related to Fr Bismarque Dias came up.

“When he was living and was threatened, he went to the Old Goa police station and demanded that an FIR be registered, but he was refused. When he was missing, his family wanted an FIR registered, but it was again refused. When his body was found, dead, we demanded an FIR be registered, but the Old Goa police station refused, Afonso wrote on Facebook. Today, the High Court has ordered the Crime Branch of Goa to register an FIR and report to the court every three months,” Afonso posted.

Recently, the Goa Human Rights Commission (GHRC) has asked the administration to liaise with Catholic priest of St Estevam village to perform final rites of Fr Bismarque Dias, a priest-turned-social activist, who was found dead in November 2015.

The body of the priest is still lying at the morgue operated by the Goa Medical College and Hospital (GMCH) though district administration and police have issued a no objection certificate (NOC) to perform last rites.

“The Collector and the District Magistrate of North Goa shall issue directives to the concerned authorities to liaise with the Parish Priest of St Estevam and to arrange for the last rites of the deceased,” the order reads.

Fr Dias, who went missing on November 6, 2015 was found dead near the sluice gate of Mandovi river at St Estevam village in North Goa the next day.

The death of Fr Dias is being probed by the Goa Crime Branch after his family and friends suspected foul play after his body was found floating in a river near his village St Estevam, 20 kms from here.

The family has refused to take possession of the body till the mystery surrounding the death of Fr Dias is unravelled by the investigators.

“The record indicates that the body of Fr Dias is lying in the morgue since November 7, 2015. The complaint states that the parish priest of St Estevam is willing to conduct the final rites provided the legal heirs/relatives of the deceased gave no objection for it,” reads the order by GHRC which was pronounced today, copy of which is with PTI.

Social activist Aires Rodrigues had moved the GHRC seeking directives to dispose off the body.

“The records further indicate that the Crime Branch has given NOC to carry out final rites of Fr Dias on November 9, 2015. Additional Collector (North) too has given the NOC on the same day,” the order mentions.

“Despite NOCs by Crime Branch and Additional Collector, the body of Fr Dias is still lying in the morgue at Goa Medical College and Hospital,” the GHRC observed today.

Dias had unsuccessfully contested from Cumbharjua constituency in the March 2012 Goa Assembly elections, even after having been threatened with dire consequences if he did so.

He had also participated in the “musical protest” against the proposed golf project at Tiracol, the protests by the fishing community in Vasco and against the Raheja project at Carmona.

SOURCE: IANS, PTI & AGENCIES

 

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