In a move to delay the trial proceedings of Kerala nun rape case, accused Bishop Franco Mulakkal, on Saturday, filed a discharge petition in the court. The petition was filed by Francoâ€™s counsel to Judge Gopakumar of Additional District Court in Kottayam.
Franco Mulakkal is accused of sexually assaulting a nun of the Missionaries of Jesus congregation in Kerala, multiple times between 2014 and 2016.
Franco Mulakkal, who is on bail, filed the discharge petition, asking to relieve him from the accused list without facing the trial. The reason cited by Francoâ€™s counsel is that the charges in the case will not stand against Franco as the case was only based on the statements of witnesses who have resentment against him, reports the Times of India.
As per reports, Franco Mulakkalâ€™s counsel also stated that most of the witnesses against him in the case do not have a good relationship with the church.
The court will consider the discharge petition on February 4. The same court had denied Franco Mulakkalâ€™s earlier plea seeking more time in the case.
Franco had been playing different tactics to delay the commencement of trails. The trial has already been postponed multiple times. It was supposed to commence on November 11 initially but was adjourned to November 30. But according to reports, when the case was considered on November 30, Franco extended his bail. Recently, when the case was considered on January 6, he approached the court asking for more time.
Franco Mulakkal, who was arrested on September 21, 2018 on rape charges, got bail on October 16, 2018. The Kerala Police have filed a 1,400-page chargesheet against him. The chargesheet names 83 witnesses, including Cardinal of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church Mar George Alencherry, three bishops, 11 priests and several nuns.
After the case came to light, Mulakkal was removed as head of the Jalandhar diocese.
Witnesses in the case had also been coming out alleging that they are being threatened not to give statements against Franco Mulakkal. Sister Lissy Vadakkel, one of the prime witnesses in the case, had in December told TNM that she was being constantly threatened to change her statement against Franco.
Franco is charged under sections 342 (wrongful confinement), 376 (2)(k) (rape on a woman incapable of giving consent), 376 (2n) (causing grievous bodily harm during rape), 376 (c) (a) 377 (unnatural offence), 506 (1) (criminal intimidation) of the Indian Penal Code. If proven guilty, the charges could attract life imprisonment or a minimum punishment of not less than 10 years.