In a development seen as a setback for survivors of rape and the struggle for justice for women, a court in Kerala acquitted the former bishop of Jalandhar diocese, Franco Mulakkal, in the nun rape case today. It was the additional district and sessions court 1 in Kottayam that pronounced the verdict in the case.
The survivor in the case had filed a complaint with the chief of police in Kottayam about the sexual abuse from 2014-16 on 27 June 2018. The petitioner is a 44-year-old former superior general of Missionaries of Jesus, a congregation functioning under Jalandhar Diocese in Punjab. Bishop Mulakkal is the patron of the congregation.
There were 39 prosecution witnesses and six defence witnesses in the case and the prosecution had submitted 122 documents while the defence had submitted 56 documents before court. The court through an order had barred the media from covering the in-camera proceedings of the trial.
Police filed the charge sheet in the case of rape of a nun on 9 April 2019. The trial got over on 29 December 2021.
Pleading innocence, Bishop Mulakkal had approached Kerala High Court and Supreme Court to clear him from the case, but the higher courts asked him to face the trial at the lower court first.
Kerala Police had arrested the bishop on 21 September 2018, a fortnight after five nun companions of the complainant staged a sit-in in Kochi. The bishop was jailed but released on bail on 15 October 2018.
Before his arrest, the Vatican had removed him from the diocese’s administrative roles by appointing an apostolic administrator.
A special investigation team of Kerala Police had investigated the allegations and filed a 2,000-page charge sheet against Bishop Mulakkal in April 2019. Among the witnesses were Cardinal George Alencherry, the head of the Syro-Malabar Church.
Advocate Githesh J Babu was the Special Public Prosecutor in the case. The defence was represented by senior advocates B Raman Pillai and Advocate CS Ajayan.