A Kerala Court acquitted former Bishop of the Jalandhar Diocese, Franco Mulakkal for raping a Nun in Kerala for a very long period of time.
The additional district and sessions court pronounced the verdict in the case. The victim Nun had filed a complaint with the Kottayam Police Chief about the sexual abuse on June 27, 2018. The Kottayam police had arrested the Bishop on September 21, 2018 after five nun companions staged a sit-in Kochi. He was released on bail on October 15,2018.
Franco was accused of raping a Nun from the Missionaries of Jesus Convent in Kuravilangad. The victim accused him of raping her 13 times during his visits to the convent between the year 2014 and 2016.
The accused, Mulakkal had denied all the charges against him, and added that the Nun had made false allegations against him as the Catholic order had rejected her demand for favours.
A plea was filed before the High Court in August, stating that no investigation and interrogation has happened and the accused is still roaming freely. The plea sought a directive to arrest Franco. On 22 September, Franco Murakkal was remanded to police custody after two more pleas were filed before the High Court. He was then arrested and taken to Sub Jail, Pala on September 24, 2018.
Franco filed a bail application, however, the High Court rejected his bail plea on October 3, 2018 stating that there existed a prima facie case against the accused and the investigation is in full swing and it was a premature application as the investigation was steadily progressing after his arrest.
Mulakkal had approached the Supreme Court on June 25,2020 challenging the verdict of the High Court rejecting his plea seeking to acquit him. He questioned the financial dealings of the nun and also claimed that he was innocent and was falsely accused. However, the Supreme Court rejected his request, noting that there was no case for discharge.
The highly awaited verdict was given by the Additional Sessions Judge, G Gopakumar Kottayam.
The Nun had knocked all the doors for justice. She first approached higher officials in the Church, including the Pope’s office, she accused Mulakkal, who was a senior priest at that time, of sexually harassing her. However, her plea got ignored.
Then in June 2018, she filed a complaint against Mulakkal, in Kottayam Police station,who was then the head of the Jalandhar diocese in Punjab. This led to an FIR being registered against him on June 28 under section 376 of IPC. She also gave her statement to Magistrate under Section 164 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.
A group of Nuns launched public protests against Franco by the name “Save our Sisters” demanding Franco’s arrest.
The Special Investigation Team was given the responsibility to investigate the case, the SIT arrested Franco and charged him under Sections 342 (punishment for wrongful confinement), 376 c(a) (intercourse by superintendent of remand home etc.), 377 (unnatural offences) and 506(ii) (criminal intimidation) of the Indian Penal Code.
The Nun and other sisters faced threats and opposition from powerful people within the Catholic establishments who continued to support the Bishop who raped the nun for more than 13 times.
The detailed judgement of the Sessions Court is still awaited.