At the Additional Sessions Court in Kottayam on Friday, January 14, as soon as the verdict in the Bishop Franco sexual assault case came, acquitting him of all charges, a short press release got distributed among those present. It was the Bishop's House thanking those who believed in the bishop's innocence, printed and ready.
"Through today's verdict, the Kottayam Additional Sessions Court has acquitted the metropolitan of Jalandhar diocese, respected Bishop Franco Mulakkal. We thank those who believed in his innocence all this time and those who gave him the required legal assistance," says the release by Public Relations Office of Jalandhar diocese.
The verdict on Friday morning was pronounced three and a half years after a nun in the Missionaries of Jesus congregation filed a police complaint, accusing the bishop of raping her several times between 2014 and 2016. Bishop Franco was shortly arrested in September 2018 before he was released on bail next month. In the years that followed, several voices of support emerged for the nun. Five other nuns relentlessly supported the nun through all the opposition they faced from their congregation, the society and others.
Press release by Bishop House
On Friday, after the verdict came, the supporting nuns expressed their disappointment at the verdict. The justice they got from the police and the prosecutor, they didnâ€™t get from the judiciary, said Sr Anupama, one of the nuns. But they will continue their fight for justice for their fellow nun, even if they die in the fight, they said.
Watch: Man with money and muscle power won: Sister Anupama reacts to Franco case
Franco Mulakkal who hugged the people around him on hearing the verdict, said â€˜Praise the lordâ€™ when the media asked him for a reaction. Other supporters distributed sweets while one of the bishopâ€™s advocates claimed that all charges against him were fake.
S Harishankar, former Kottayam district Superintendent of Police, said that the judgment was unprecedented, given there were no contradictions during the cross-examination, clear medical evidence and corroborative witnesses. Acquittal in such a case must be a first in the history of Indian legal framework, he said.