The National Commission of Women said on Wednesday that it had written to the Kerala police chief to seek investigation into allegations of sexual abuse against five priests in the state. The commission asked the police chief to apprise it of the action taken.

The women’s commission took cognisance of the matter after the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church sent the priests on leave on Monday following accusations that they blackmailed and sexually abused a woman for three years.

In a letter to the church, the woman’s husband, from Tiruvalla in Kottayam district, had claimed that the priests used his wife’s confession, which is meant to be a secret under church laws, to blackmail her and subsequently exploit her. He named eight people in the letter and sought action against them.

According to a leaked audio clip, purportedly of a conversation between the man and a church official, the man said that his wife was sexually abused by a priest before she got married.

A church spokesperson told the Hindustan Times that they would file a police complaint if the allegations, which are reportedly “very old”, have any substance.