14 Jan 2022 5:39 AM GMT
The Additional District and Sessions Court in Kottayam on Friday acquitted erstwhile Bishop Franco Mulakkal of the Catholic Church in the nun rape case. Additional Sessions Judge G Gopakumar pronounced the highly-anticipated verdict today morning in the presence of Mulakkal. Advocates B Raman Pillai, C.S . Ajayan, Sujesh Menon, Mahesh Banu. Nibu and Akhil represented Mulakkal in...
The Additional District and Sessions Court in Kottayam on Friday acquitted erstwhile Bishop Franco Mulakkal of the Catholic Church in the nun rape case.
Additional Sessions Judge G Gopakumar pronounced the highly-anticipated verdict today morning in the presence of Mulakkal.
Advocates B Raman Pillai, C.S . Ajayan, Sujesh Menon, Mahesh Banu. Nibu and Akhil represented Mulakkal in the case.
Franco Mulakkal, the Bishop of Jalandhar, was accused of raping a nun from the Missionaries of Jesus convent in Kuravilangad. The survivor alleged that Franco raped her 13 times during his visits to the convent between 2014 and 2016.
Mulakkal had earlier denied the charges as "baseless and concocted", and insisted that the nun had made the allegations as the Catholic order had rejected her demand for favours.
While the trial began in November 2019, it got delayed and was finally completed on Monday, January 10, 2022. It was an in-camera trial and the media was prohibited from reporting details about the trial, as per Bishop Franco's counsel's request.
Timeline of the Nun Rape case:
In the month of June 2018, a nun of the Catholic Church had raised allegations that Bishop Franco had sexually assaulted her on several occasions. This led to an FIR being registered on June 28 under Section 376, IPC. The nun also gave a statement to Magistrate under Section 164 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.
Allegations surfaced for the first time in July 2018 when a collective called "Save Our Sisters" launched public protests calling for Franco's arrest.
Although the nun had first approached several higher officials in the church – including the Pope's office – accusing Bishop Franco of predatory behaviour, her complaints were overlooked. The survivor then filed a complaint with the police in June 2018 and a case was registered under various sections of the Indian Penal Code for rape and sexual assault.
Later on, in August 2018, a plea was filed before the High Court alleging that there has been no move to interrogate or arrest the accused and seeking a directive to arrest Franco Mulakkal. This was disposed of by the Court noting that the investigation was proceeding on the right track.
After two more PILs with similar prayers were moved in September 2018, the Court had sought a status report on the investigation in the case.
Soon, on 22nd September 2018, Franco Mulakkal was remanded to police custody for further interrogation by the Judicial First Class Magistrate, Pala for two days after three days of interrogation.
Within two days, he was remanded to judicial custody by the Judicial First Class Magistrate, Pala till October 6. He was accordingly taken to Sub Jail, Pala on September 24, 2018.
On October 3, 2018, the Court refused to grant him bail noting that there existed a prima facie case against the accused and that it was a premature application since the investigation was steadily progressing in the matter even after his arrest.
However, on October 15, 2018, the High Court released Franco on conditional bail recording that the investigation had progressed to the final stages. The former Bishop was directed to surrender his passport and not to enter the State except to appear before the probe officer once in two weeks on Saturdays. The conditions were made applicable till a chargesheet was filed in the case.
On March 16 2019, Franco preferred a discharge plea before the trial court seeking to release him from the rape case under Section 227 of the CrPC, but this was declined.
After a brief holdup, on April 9 2019, the Kerala police filed its chargesheet against Mulakkal alleging that he had raped the survivor-nun on several occasions over a period of two years. This was the first time in the history of the Catholic Church in India that a clergyman of the rank of a Bishop was named accused in a police final report.
Meanwhile, challenging the order of the trial court, he moved the High Court, but his plea was again rejected accepting the prosecution's argument that there was prima facie evidence against Mulakkal on July 7 2020.
Bishop Franco Mulakkal Case : Why Court Found Nun's Testimony Unreliable?
Thereafter, on July 25 2020, Mullakkal approached the Supreme Court challenging the High Court judgment rejecting his plea seeking to discharge him from the rape case. He again claimed that he was innocent and that he was falsely implicated after he questioned the financial dealings of the victim nun.
However, noting that there was no case for discharge, the Apex Court declined this request as well.
The survivor and her supporters have encountered resistance and even threats from influential persons within the Catholic establishment who persisted to defend the priest.
Notably, Sister Lucy Kalappura, who had participated in protests against Mulakkal was evicted from her convent.
When she approached the High Court in July 2021 seeking police protection, the convent had submitted a decretum issued by the Supremum Tribunal Signaturae Apostolicae which ended her right to remain a part of the congregation.
Click here to read/download the judgment
Also Read : Why Bishop Franco Mulakkal's Acquittal In Nun Rape Case Is Flawed?
Bishop Franco Judgment Overturned Criminal Law Jurisprudence, Put Rape Survivor On Trial : Rebecca John