The Bishop was arrested from the Thripunithura Crime Branch Police Station after he was questioned by the police for the third day.

3 months after nun files rape complaint Bishop Franco Mulakkal finally arrested
news Kerala nun rape case Friday, September 21, 2018 - 21:08

Bishop Franco Mulakkal, accused of raping a nun belonging to the Missionaries of Jesus congregation in Kottayam, was finally arrested on Friday. The Bishop was arrested from the Thripunithura Crime Branch Police Station after he was questioned by the police for the third day.

After third day of questioning, Kottayam SP Harishankar told the media that there was enough material with the investigating team to show that Bishop Franco Mulakkal had committed the crime, which is why they decided to go ahead with his arrest.

The Bishop will be taken for a medical examination to a Taluka hospital and then to Kottayam tonight. Fr Franco Mulakkal will be produced at Pala court on Saturday.

On Thursday, the Jalandhar Bishop was interrogated for the second time for nearly eight hours. After the questioning concluded, Kottayam SP Harisankar addressed the media and stated that three fact-finding police teams were formed to verify the statements of the Bishop. "The grilling has been positive, we have been able to get clarity on many things," the SP had told the media.

The interrogation over three days was conducted by Kottayam SP Harisankar and DySP Vaikom K Subhash. 

The statement that didn't match

According to sources in the police department, the Bishop had maintained that he had not stayed at the Kurivalangad convent on May 5, 2014, the day the nun alleged she had been raped for the second time.

The bishop and his supporters in the diocese had claimed that he had stayed at the Muthalakodam convent in Idukki district on May 5th night. However, according to sources, the investigating team has procured statements from his driver and another nun in the Muthalakodam convent that alleged that the bishop had stayed at the Kurivilangad convent itself that night.

Though the bishop has not confessed to any crime, the legal team advising the investigators reportedly said that the statements from other witnesses were enough to arrest the bishop.

Temporarily removed from administrative duty

On Thursday, the Apostolic Nunciature (Pope’s Ambassador) to India accepted the request of the rape accused Bishop to relieve him of his religious duties temporarily. Pope Francis has appointed Bishop Agnelo Rufino Gracias, the Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus of Bombay, to take over the duties of Bishop Franco Mulakkal.

The police had issued a summons to the Bishop of the Jalandhar Diocese on September 12 directing him to appear before the police by September 19 in relation to the sexual harassment charges levelled against him by a nun. The nun had filed a complaint in June alleging that she was sexually assaulted by the bishop multiple times between 2014 and 2016 in the Kuravilangad convent in Kerala.

The police had questioned the bishop once on August 13, almost two months after the complaint was filed but the case had been kept in cold storage after that.

Raising questions over the police inaction on the issue, sisters of the Missionaries of Jesus (MJ) in Kottayam - Anupama, Alphy, Josephine, Neena Rose and Anaitha - sat in protest near the Kerala High Court, demanding that the bishop be arrested.

Though the police maintained that there was substance to the complaint against the bishop, their reluctance to take the bishop into custody was criticised by many. With more common people joining the protest expressing solidarity with their cause, the pressure on Kerala police to act has been high.

Police affidavits

The police had filed an affidavit in the Kerala High Court, which stated that there was indeed evidence to confirm the charges levelled against the bishop by the nun.

The affidavit that was submitted to the court on August 13 stated, “During the course of the investigation so far conducted and the available evidences collected so far, it is revealed that the accused Bishop Franco committed unnatural offence and committed rape repeatedly on different dates from 05/05/2014 to 23/09/2016 on the complainant against the will and consent of her abusing his dominance over her as Bishop of Jalandhar after confining her in the guest room number 20 of St Francis Bishop Home Kuravilangad.”

On September 13, the Kerala police filed another affidavit in the Kerala High Court citing that the discrepancies in the statements of the bishop, the complainant and the witness led to the delay in arresting the bishop.

Victim shaming

Meanwhile, the Missionaries of Jesus (MJ), to which the survivor belongs, and which is headed by Franco Mulakkal, has resorted to blaming her and thereby shielding the bishop. The congregation also said that the way the nun went on with her life after the alleged assault was enough proof to show that the allegations are not true. MJ also accused the police of going out of their way to help the nun.

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