The trial in the case against Bishop Franco Mulakkal, who has been accused of raping a nun of the Missionaries of Jesus congregation in Kerala, has been adjourned to November 30. The Additional district sessions court 1 of Kottayam was to commence the trial on November 11. However, citing unavailability of the judge, the court decided to shift the trial to November 30, resulting in a 20 day delay.
â€śThe shifting of the hearing has caused considerable stress to the nuns as well as the survivor who have been waiting for the trial to commence. They are aware that there is a long journey ahead for justice. The decision that they have taken to move the court against Bishop Franco has not been supported by the congregation, which has led to the nuns being isolated from all official duties and responsibilities within the church. It is a lonely battle, but they have received support from their respective families,â€ť a source close to the nuns added. To keep themselves engaged during the course of this legal battle, the nuns have also enrolled in correspondence courses in various subjects. They have also received counselling sessions in order to deal with the pressures of the trial.
According to reports, the court had issued a summons to the rape accused Bishop Franco of the Jalandhar diocese to appear for a preliminary hearing on the chargesheet. Framing of charges against the accused was to be done based on the hearing, followed by an examination of the witnesses. However, this has now been shifted to November 30. The proceedings in the court will be presided over by Additional District Sessions Judge Gopakumar.
Although the police submitted the chargesheet in the Judicial First Class Magistrate Court in Pala, the case was shifted to the Principal Sessions Court in Kottayam and later to the Additional District Sessions court after factoring in the gravity and nature of the case.
Church leaks survivorâ€™s pictures: Pala Court to hold preliminary hearing on Wednesday
Meanwhile, the Judicial First Class Magistrate Court in Pala has scheduled the preliminary hearing of a defamation case against two nuns of the Missionaries of Jesus congregation at 11 am on Wednesday.
The Public Relations Officer of Missionaries of Jesus, Sister Amala, as well as another nun of the congregation identified as Sister Annie Rose had released pictures of the nun with Bishop Franco Mulakkal to the public in September 2018.
According to the complaint which was filed in the Kottayam police station, the congregation flouted anti-rape laws by releasing a picture of the survivor nun. The picture, allegedly from 2015, shows the survivor sitting with Bishop Franco, which was released along with a notice by Missionaries of Jesus stating that they would not extend support to the protesting nuns.
The chargesheet against Bishop Franco submitted by the prosecution arraigns the accused in the case under IPC sections 342 (wrongful confinement), 376 (2k) (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) IPC Sections). If proved guilty, the charges could attract life imprisonment or a minimum punishment of not less than 10 years for the accused Bishop.