Kerala HC rejects Bishop Franco Mulakkal’s discharge plea in nun rape case
The Kerala high court (HC) on Tuesday rejected deposed Jalandhar Bishop Franco Mulakkal’s plea to quash the charge of sexually assaulting a nun against him and directed him to face trial.
He had moved the HC after a trial court in Kottayam had dismissed his discharge plea in March.
On Tuesday, the prosecution contended that there was strong evidence against him and he was moving pleas frequently to delay the trial.
Later, Justice V Shircy rejected his plea and directed him to stand trial in the case.
His counsel said Mulakkal would move the Supreme Court (SC) soon.
In June, the trial court had asked him to appear before it on July 1, but he had played truant, citing that his house is Jalandhar is located in a coronavirus disease (Covid-19) containment zone.
Sister Anupama, one of the five nuns, who had staged in a sit-in Kochi in September 2018 seeking the Bishop’s arrest, said she is happy with Tuesday’s court order and stated that she has full faith in the judicial system of the country.
Mulakkal came under fire in June 2018, when the nun (43), also a Mother Superior, had complained to the police in Kottayam that Jalandhar Bishop had raped her several times between 2014 and 2016.
The rape survivor nun is a member of the Missionaries of Jesus congregation based in Punjab.
The special investigation team (SIT) of Kerala Police arrested him in September 2018 after several rounds of questioning.
He was granted bail after 40 days.
Mulakkal was removed as the Jalandhar Bishop after the allegations came to light.
The SIT had filed the charge sheet against him last year.
The trial was slated to start on November 11, but it was put off till November 30.
It was again deferred to January 6 after Mulakkal sought more time.
Later, he filed a discharge plea in the trial court in Kottayam, seeking to quash charges against him claiming that the rape survivor had implicated him after he took action against her for financial irregularities in the convent.
Mulakkal’s case has pitchforked the role of Save our Sister Forum, which is spearheading the campaign against the deposed Bishop and also as an organisation that is fighting for reforms in the Syro-Malabar Church, the second-largest Eastern Catholic Church in the world.