Bishop of Jalandhar diocese of Catholic Church, Franco Mulakkal, has filed an application in the High Court of Kerala today seeking pre-arrest bail under Section 438 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. He stands accused of raping a nun of the congregation, Missionaries of Jesus. The Bishop has been asked by the Kerala police to appear before it tomorrow for interrogation in the case.
In the bail application the allegations of rape are denied as false and baseless. It is stated that the complainant had not said in the first statement given to the police that she was subjected to forceful sexual intercourse. However, the statement was later changed and improved while giving statement before the Magistrate under Section 164 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, to add allegations of forceful sexual intercourse. This embellishment has been made, allegedly, to get over the reports of medical examination, which did not return any unsavoury finding. The application also states that the cousin of the victim-nun had made an allegation that the nun had sexual intercourse with the husband of her cousin. "This crucial aspect casts serious suspicion on the credibility of the allegations raised by the defacto complainant", adds the petition.
The petition goes on to state that the victim was holding a high post in the congregation as the Superior General for 9 years, and hence she was not an "individual who can be cowed down by any authority". So, the conspicuous silence of more than 4 years is an indicator of falsity of the complaint, the petition states. It is also mentioned that in none of her complaints before the authorities in the Church, she had made any allegation of sexual assault.
The application is likely to be mentioned before Justice Raja Vijayaraghavan, who is dealing with bail applications as per current roster arrangement, today at 1.45 PM. Senior Advocate P. Vijayabhanu is likely to appear in the bail application.
Last week, the Division Bench of the High Court had recorded prima facie satisfaction of the course of investigation on the basis of report submitted by the investigating officer. The Division Bench was acting on a bunch of PILs filed seeking arrest of Franco Mulakkal and proper investigation of the case against him. The prosecution had submitted that meticulous investigation spanning over seven districts in Kerala, and five States was under progress, and statements of 81 witnesses have been taken. It was submitted that there were contradictions in the witness statements, and the police was in the process of cross-checking them. It was also submitted that notice under Section 41A of CrPC has been served on Franco Mulakkal to appear before police on September 19 for interrogation. The DGP submitted that decision regarding his arrest can be taken only after his interrogation and verification of contradictions in the evidence.
On the basis of the above submissions, the Division Bench of the Chief Justice held :
"...we are of the prima facie view that the investigation is being conducted in a fair and professional manner, and at this stage, it would be inappropriate for this Court, to issue any specific direction on the conduct of the investigation".
Taking note of the fact that the Bishop has been summoned on September 19, the Division Bench adjourned the matter to September 24.
The allegation is that the complainant was subjected to rape on multiple occasions between 6-5-2014 to 23-09-2016 by Franco Mulakkal by abusing his dominant position. On the basis of her complaint, the Kuravilangad police registered Crime No. 746 of 2018 for offences punishable under Sections 342, 376 (2)(k) and (n) , 377, and 506 (I) IPC.