Seven months after Jalandhar diocese Bishop Franco Mulakkal was arrested in the case of raping a nun at the Missionaries of Jesus convent in Kottayam, the Kerala police has finally filed the chargesheet against him. A nun from the Kurivalangad Convent had alleged that between 2014 and 2016, the Bishop had raped her 13 times.
The chargesheet that has more than 100 pages was submitted before the Pala Sessions Court on Tuesday afternoon. There were 84 eyewitnesses, including Archbishop of Ernakulam - Angamaly George Alencherry, Bishop Joseph Kallarangatt of Pala diocese, Bhagalpur Bishop Kurian Valiyakandathil and Bishop Sebastian Vadakkel of the diocese of Ujjain. Eleven priests, three bishops and 24 nuns have been quoted in the chargesheet.
He 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].
The nuns did it again
It was also a moment of relief for the survivor nun as well as the five nuns who protested to ensure justice for their fellow nun.
Five nuns of the Save our Sisters (SOS) forum - Sisters Alphy, Anupama, Josephine, Nina Rose and Ancitta - had started an indefinite protest to ensure Franco’s arrest. After 14 days of the protest in Kochi, the police issued a summons to Franco to come to Kerala for questioning and subsequently arrested him.
Even while all nuns associated with the survivor were intimidated, humiliated and received threats of transfer and isolation, the five nuns were ready to take out another protest, to fight against Franco and his supporters’ threats, and if the chargesheet was delayed further.
Months after the case file was gathering dust at the DGP’s office, on Sunday, the Kerala Police Chief finally gave the nod to file the chargesheet.
Despite evidence, there was no chargesheet
The chargesheet was a procedure that was long overdue. On June 28, 2018, FIR was filed against the rape-accused Bishop. In September 2018, after three days of extensive questioning led by Kottayam SP Harisankar and DySP Vaikom K Subhash, Franco was finally arrested.
The next step was filing the chargesheet. However, it never happened, despite sufficient evidence.
Soon after his arrest, Franco’s multiple attempts to get bail came to fruition on October 15. He was granted bail on the condition that he should surrender his passport at the court and that he should not enter Kerala. He left Kerala, only to intimidate the witnesses in the case.
Police sources had told TNM that Franco and his supporters at the diocese maintained that he had not stayed at the Kurivalangad convent on May 5, 2014, the day the nun alleged that she was raped for a second time. He claimed that he had stayed at the Muthalakodam convent in Idukki district on May 5.
However, his statement did not match with statements from his driver and a nun at the Muthalakodam convent in Idukki, who said that the Bishop had stayed at the Kurivilangad convent itself on the night of May 5.
Though the bishop had not confessed to any crime, the legal team of the investigators reportedly said that the statements from other witnesses were enough to arrest the bishop.
In fact, on August 13, the police had filed an affidavit in the Kerala High Court, stating that there was sufficient evidence to confirm the charges against the bishop.
“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,” read the affidavit.
On September 13, the police filed another affidavit in the Court, stating that the discrepancies in the statements of the bishop, the complainant and the witness led to the delay in arresting the bishop.