Kerala court cancels ex-Bishop’s bail in rape case, issues arrest warrant
A special court in Kottayam in Kerala on Monday cancelled the bail of Franco Mulakkal, former Bishop of Jalandhar who is accused of raping a nun and issued a non-bailable arrest warrant against him.
When the court took up the case public prosecutor Jithesh Babu informed the additional district judge G Gopakumar that some of the reasons cited by the accused to avoid his appearance were factually incorrect. In the last hearing on July 1 his counsel had said since Jalandhar was a Covid-19 containment zone he was denied permission to travel to Kerala.
To buttress his point the prosecutor produced documents obtained from Jalandhar which showed his contentions were wrong (HT has copies of the documents) and said he was avoiding appearance citing wrong reasons. He told the court that the Civil Lines area in Jalandhar where the former bishop is staying was not in the list of the containment zones.
Mulakkal was not present on Monday either when his counsel said the former bishop had a detailed talk with his lawyer who had tested positive for Covid-19 and was asked to go into quarantine. But the court said since his first claim fell flat it can’t accept the latest one. Later the court cancelled his bail and directed the Kottayam police superintendent to arrest him and produce him before it. The court posted the next date of hearing for August 13.
“Mulakkal had cited flimsy reasons to avoid his personal appearance many times. His men also tried to intimidate some of the witnesses. With his defiant attitude he was challenging the judicial system of the country,” said Felix J Pulludan, convener of Save Our Sisters, an organisation floated during the stir against Mulakkal before he was arrested for the first time.
The spokesman of Jalandhar diocese Father Peter expressed shock over cancellation of Mullakal’s bail and said there was a concerted move to influence the judiciary with wrong information. “A section of the media said the bishop was absent 13 times, but there are only four occasions. We have submitted all documents to the court in this regard. It is sad his submission was overlooked,” said the PRO.
Last week the Kerala High Court had rejected the former bishop’s plea to quash the case against him and directed him to face the trial. In March the trial court in Kottayam had also dismissed his discharge plea.
The case surfaced in 2018 after a 43-year-old nun had complained to the police in Kottayam that Mulakkal had raped her several times between 2014 and 2016. The nun is a member of the Missionaries of Jesus congregation based in Punjab. But Mulakkal denied it saying he was implicated after he took action against her for financial irregularities in the convent.
Later a special investigation team (SIT) was formed and it arrested him in September 2018. He was granted bail after spending 40 days in jail. He was removed from the post of the bishop later. The SIT had filed the charge sheet against him last year but he failed to appear before the court several times.
The petitioner had also complained that some of the witnesses were threatened by Mulakkal’s followers. While opposing his discharge plea the state government had said in the High Court that evidence against him was strong and he was deliberately delaying the trial filing different pleas.