Kottayam Superintendent of Police (SP) Harishankar was issued transferred orders last week. Now, a week later, on Tuesday, Vaikom Deputy SP Subash, too, was issued a transfer order. What do these officers have in common? They were the investigating officers in the case against Bishop Franco Mulakkal, who has been accused of raping a nun multiple times.
The state government's move to transfer the investigating officers is raising serious questions about possible attempts to sabotage the investigation. According to Save Our Sister (SOS) Action Council, which was at the forefront of the protests led by five nuns to ensure Franco’s arrest, these transfers come even as the trial is yet to begin.
After three days of interrogation by Harishankar and Subash, they finally arrested the rape-accused Bishop on October 15, 2018. Seven months later, on April 9, the chargesheet against him was filed. Two months later, the two main investigating officials have been handed out transfer orders.
While Harishankar has been transferred to Kollam and Subash has been transferred to the Idukki Vigilance Wing.
Sister Anupama, one of the five nuns who led the protests against Franco in August 2018, said that Bishop Franco's political and financial influence was behind these transfers. “We are in a state of shock after learning about the transfers. This is worrisome,” she told the media.
Incidentally, the CPI(M) member and public prosecutor in the Kevin Murder case, CS Ajayan, has been appointed as the Defence Attorney for Franco Mulakkal, in addition to two other lawyers. “We believe this appointment, too, is another move to sabotage the case,” added Sister Anupama.
The SOS Action Council also criticised the government decision to transfer the officials before the trial. “We strongly feel there is political pressure behind these transfers. We worry this will affect the smooth and fair trial of the case,” SOS general convenor Felix J Pulloodan told TNM.
Bishop Franco Mulakkal was accused of raping a nun from the Missionaries of Jesus convent in Kuravilangad, Kottayam, over 13 times between 2014 to 2016. The crime came to light in 2018, when an FIR was filed against the rape-accused Bishop. Despite this, no action was taken. Hence, five nuns from Kuravilangad convent protested, and soon received support from the public, following which, Franco was taken summoned for interrogation and subsequent arrest.
However, five nuns and those associated with the survivor nun were intimidated, humiliated and received threats of transfer and isolation.
Franco has been charged under the following sections of the Indian Penal Code: 342 (Punishment for wrongful confinement), 376 (2) (K) [being in a position of control or dominance over a woman, commits rape on such woman], 376 (C) (I) [(Sexual intercourse by a person in authority] 377/506 (1) [Carnal Intercourse against the order of nature with the victim without consent and criminally intimidated the victim by extending threats].