A writ petition has been filed in the High Court of Kerala seeking a directive to arrest Franco Mulakkal, Bishop of Jalandhar Diocese of Syro-Malabar Church, who stands accused for rape of a nun.
The petitioner is George Joseph K, an executive committee member of Kerala Catholic Reformation Movement, a registered organization of the faithful working towards "reformation of practises which are antithetical to church spirit and mission".
In the month of June, 2018, a nun of Catholic Church had raised the allegation that Bishop Franco had sexually assaulted her on several occasions. This led to an FIR being registered on June 28 for offence under Section 376, IPC. The nun also gave a statement to Magistrate under Section 164 of Code of Criminal Procedure. However, there has been no move to interrogate or arrest the accused- states the petition.
"It is submitted that despite serious allegation and lodging of an FIR on 28th June 2018 against the said Bishop there has been no move to take effective action in the manner of taking him into custody. It is submitted that in regular matters relating to cognizalbe, non bailable offences there is mandatory arrest which is forgone in this case. It is submitted that in the normal case once a complaint is obtained, in the event a cognizable, non bailable offence is committed, even a warrant of arrest is not required. But in this case, it appears to a concerted effort to give benefit of doubt to the accused as the survivor had approached courts late and the accused happens to be one of the top ranking officials of the religious order leaving the space open for intimidation and coercion", the petition states.
It is further stated in the petition that a parallel justice system seemed to be at play, with church authorities on one hand and the state law on the other with primacy being given to that of church law.
The petition seeks a court monitored investigation of the case, and a direction for immediate arrest of the Bishop. The petition also seeks direction to constitute an effective witness protection to prevent intimidation and coercion of witnesses in the case.
Last week, Justice Sunil Thomas had recused himself from hearing the matter when it came before him for admission. Therefore, the case was assigned to the bench of Justice B. Sudheendra Kumar. He directed the State Government to submit their response to the petition when it came before him yesterday.