The case saw an in-camera trial and there was a media gag prohibiting media from reporting details of the trial.

Stylised image of Bishop Franco Mulakkal against a purple backgroundCredit: Prarthana Bhawan TV
news Franco Mulakkal rape case Thursday, January 13, 2022 - 19:44

More than three years after the Catholic Church was rocked by rape allegations, the Additional District And Sessions Court in Kottayam is all set to pronounce the verdict in the Franco Mulakkal case on Friday, January 14. Franco Mulakkal, who is the  Bishop of Jalandhar, was accused of raping a nun from the Missionaries of Jesus convent in Kuravilangad. The survivor alleged that Franco raped her 13 times during his visits to the convent between 2014 and 2016.

Although the nun had first approached several higher officials in the church – including the Pope’s office – accusing Bishop Franco of predatory behaviour, her complaints were ignored. The survivor filed a complaint with the police in June 2018 and a case was registered under various sections of the Indian Penal Code pertaining to rape and sexual assault.

While the trial began in November 2019, it got delayed and was finally completed on Monday, January 10, 2022. It was an in-camera trial and the media was prohibited from reporting details about the trial, as per Bishop Franco’s counsel’s request. If Bishop Franco is found guilty, he faces a minimum sentence of ten years imprisonment and a maximum of life imprisonment.

Here’s a timeline of the case over the last 3.5 years:

June 2017 - Nun survivor wrote to Pala Bishop complaining about Franco and accusing him of trying to intimidate her, her colleagues and family members. In the subsequent months, she wrote to several authorities of the church, but no action was taken.

June 27, 2018 - Nun survivor lodged a complaint before the Kottayam District Police Chief. The nun who joined the congregation in 1996 was heading the Home by then. She alleged that he raped her several times between 2014 and 2016.

June 28, 2018 - FIR registered based on complaint received at the Kuravilangad police station. He is charged under IPC sections 342 (punishment for wrongful confinement), 376 (2)(k), 376(2)(n) (rigorous imprisonment for not less than 10 years), 376 C(a) (intercourse by superintendent of remand home etc), 377 (unnatural offences) and 506(ii) (criminal intimidation).

July 1, 2018 - Convenor of the Archdiocesan Movement for Transparency (AMT) files complaint with the Inspector General against Cardinal Mar George Alanchery, who failed to inform the police about the nun’s rape charge.

July 5, 2018 - In camera statement of the nun recorded in the case.

July 7, 2018 - National Women’s Commission (NCW) demands expedition of probe.

July 25, 2018 - The nun’s relative in Kochi informed police about being offered a huge bribe to withdraw the complaint. Meanwhile, the Kerala government faces criticism for not arresting Franco.

August 7, 2018 - Kerala High Court seeks government’s response to plea that sought arrest of Bishop Franco Mulakkal.

August 8, 2018 - SIT reaches Jalandhar to interrogate Bishop Franco. Statements of nuns working at the mission’s office recorded.

September 8, 2018 - Joint Christian Council launches hunger strike in Kochi demanding arrest of Bishop Franco Mulakkal.

September 10, 2018 - Missionaries of Jesus rejects the hunger strike of nuns.   

September 11, 2018 - Survivor writes to Vatican ambassador to India seeking intervention to ensure justice. On the same day Bishop Franco lashes out at the survivor alleging anti-church people have sponsored her. Promises full cooperation with police investigation.

September 12, 2018 - Missionaries of Jesus announces a probe against agitating nuns pressing for the arrest of Bishop Franco. Six nuns to be covered in the inquiry including the rape survivor.

September 20, 2018 - Pope Francis relieves Franco Mulakkal of his pastoral duties

September 21, 2018 - Franco is arrested from the Tripunithura Crime Branch Police Station after a three-day interrogation.

September 24, 2018 - Franco files bail application. But it’s later rejected.

October 15, 2018 - Franco granted bail by Kerala High Court. Court directs Bishop to be present before the investigating officer once in two weeks. He was also directed not to leave the country and was forbidden from entering Kerala.

February 2019: Save our Sisters (SOS) forum stages protests at Kochi's Vanchi Square demanding the arrest of Bishop Franco. 

April 9, 2019 - Chargesheet running into 2,000 pages submitted by investigating officer before a magistrate court in Pala.

January 20, 2020 - Franco files plea for discharge in case without a trial, claiming that he has been ‘falsely implicated’ by the nun for having initiated action against her on allegations by her cousin sister. The plea also mentioned that there was not sufficient ground to proceed with the case.

March 16, 2020 - Franco’s discharge petition dismissed by Additional Sessions Judge-1 after the matter was heard elaborately. 

July 7, 2020 - Kerala High Court rejects appeal by Franco challenging lower court’s order dismissing discharge plea.

July 13, 2020 - Additional District and Sessions Court cancels Franco’s bail and issues arrest warrant as the former Bishop failed to appear before court.

July 25, 2020 - Franco moves Supreme Court seeking discharge.

August 25, 2020 - Supreme Court dismisses Franco’s discharge plea.

August 7, 2020 - Franco Mulakkal granted bail for the second time by the Kottayam Additional District and Sessions Court.

September 16, 2020 - Trial begins in Additional District And Sessions Court in Kottayam.

November 6, 2020 - Supreme Court dismisses Franco’s plea seeking review of its earlier order rejecting his discharge petition.

January 10, 2022 - Trial concludes.

January 14, 2022 - Additional District and Sessions Court to pronounce verdict in the case.  

January 14, 2022 - Bishop Franco acquitted of all charges by Kottayam district court

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