Sister Lissy Vadakkel, one of the witnesses in the rape case against Jalandhar Bishop Franco Mulakkal, has been granted police protection by an order of the Kottayam District Judge. Per the order, dated April 9, Sister Lissy Vadakkel should be given police protection and that she can continue to stay at her present abode in Muvattupuzha until another, safer location is allotted. The District Judge also ordered the state government to look into whether there is any requirement to transfer Sister Lissy to another safe location.
A legal expert, who is associated with Sister Lissy, told TNM that the court ordered police protection per the Witness Protection Scheme, 2018. “To my knowledge, this is the first order in the country associated with the scheme since it was formulated in December last year,” he said.
With this, Sister Lissy is considered a Category ‘A’ witness. As per the Witness Protection Scheme 2018, a person is categorised as Category A if ‘threat extends to the life of witness or his family members and their normal way of living is affected for a substantial period, during investigation/trial or even thereafter’.
Witness Protection Scheme was formulated jointly by the National Legal Service Authority (NLSA) and the Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPRD) and was sanctioned by the Supreme Court in 2018.
In 2015, the nun, who accused Franco of raping her multiple times, shared her ordeals with Sister Lissy. Finally, in February 2019, Sister Lissy gave a statement against Bishop Franco. Since then, Sister Lissy said, she has been facing coercion from the higher-ups in Franciscan Clarist Congregation (FCC), of which she is a member.
She was also given transfer order from the Muvattupuzha convent of FCC in Ernakulam, where she had been staying, to join the Vijayawada community in Andhra Pradesh. Though she joined the convent in Vijayawada, Sister Lissy returned to Kerala soon.
Recently, in March, FCC had sent an ultimatum to Sister Lissy, asking her to report to the congregation headquarters in Vijayawada. Sister Alphonsa Abraham, the provincial superior of the congregation who sent the letter, asked her to reach the congregation headquarters by March 31.
Sister Lissy had also revealed recently that she was ostracised by the officials of the Vijayawada and Muvattupuzha convent. She was also asked to move out of the convent, which she refused. It was following this that Sister Lissy sought police protection from the court.