Bishop Franco Mulakkal to face rape charges as Supreme Court dismisses plea
The Supreme Court on Wednesday cleared the way for deposed Jalandhar Bishop Franco Mulakkal to stand trial in a rape case involving a Kerala nun. The Court dismissed his plea seeking discharge from the case on a claim that he was being falsely implicated after he initiated disciplinary proceedings against the nun for financial irregularities.
Appearing for Mulakkal, senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi sought to convince a bench headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) SA Bobde that his client was being made a victim for action taken against the nun. The bench, also comprising justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian, was not convinced.
“You don’t have a case, We do not see any merit in your petition,” the bench said, dismissing the plea filed by Mulakkal, who now must stand trial.
Mulakkal, while serving as Bishop of the Jalandhar Diocese of the Roman Catholic Church, was accused of raping a nun belonging to the Missionaries of Jesus congregation in a complaint filed with the Kerala Police in June 2018.
Mulakkal was accused of raping the 43-year old nun on 13 occasions during his visits to the Kerala convent between 2014 and 2016.
Mulakkal was later removed from the charge of the Jalandhar diocese. He first approached a local court in Kerala praying for his discharge. In his plea, he claimed that he was being falsely implicated by the victim after he initiated disciplinary proceedings against her for alleged financial misdemeanour. His plea was dismissed in March this year following which he approached Kerala high court.
His petition before the HC stated, “Due to the disciplinary proceedings initiated by the petitioner (Mulakkal) against the sister, she has maliciously and falsely implicated him with an ulterior motive to wreak vengeance on him and cooked up this story just because of her personal grudge towards him, without any justification.”
After examining the evidence against him, on July 7, the high court dismissed his petition, noting, “Rape is the most revolting, cruel and hated crime to a woman… Thus when the records indicate that prima facie materials are available to show that the Sister was subjected to sexual assault including rape from the hands of the superior authority who is the Bishop of the Diocese, it is not possible to infer that this Bishop was falsely implicated by the Mother Superior of the Home functioning under him, on mere enmity as contended by him.”
The Kerala government had filed a caveat in Supreme Court anticipating an order on his plea. The state police filed a charge-sheet in April 2019 naming Mulakkal. Even the Kerala high court had said that the antecedents of the victim do not make out a case to doubt the prosecution story.