Kerala: Chargesheet Filed Against Rape-Accused Bishop Franco Mulakkal; To Go On Court Trial
Kerala police, on April 9, filed a charge sheet against former Jalandhar Bishop Franco Mulakkal who has been accused of raping a nun on over the course of two years. Mulakkal was arrested on September 2018 but was let out on bail. This chargesheet is historic in the sense that this is the first time in the history of the existence of the Catholic Church in India that a top clergyman is going to be tried in the court of law over allegations of sexual assault.
Police files chargesheet
Reportedly, the chargesheet was filed at a court in Kerala’s Pala area by a special investigation team that was formed to probe the rape allegations. The Bishop has been accused under multiple sections of the Indian Penal Code including provisions like rape, criminal intimidation, unnatural sex and wrongful confinement.
According to The Times Of India, the case which gained national and international importance last year has a total of 83 witnesses including Major Archbishop Cardinal George Alencherry, Bishop Joseph Kallarangatt of Pala diocese, as many as 25 nuns and 11 priests among others.
Four Kerala nuns, who were instrumental in leading protests against the Bishop reportedly met the Kottayam Superintendent of Police last month to complain about the undue delay in filing the chargesheet. They even claimed that they have been living in extreme fear. NDTV reported that the draft charge sheet had been ready for filing since December last year.
One of the protesting nuns said, “It’s only through a huge struggle that we have even come to this point of seeing this charge sheet get filed. We believe that we will get justice.” The nuns have alleged that they have been facing immense pressure from the church attempting to separate them from the victim, for whom they have been fighting. In an attempt to dilute the case, the church authorities have also been serving warning notices, alleged the nuns.
“This is not a victory. Save Our Sisters has always believed that every accused needs to be treated as an accused and not shielded by religion,” said Father Augustine Vattoli, who was part of the protest campaign. He said that the chargesheet comes as a result of the backing of people in Kerala.
What had happened?
Reportedly, a nun from Missionaries of Jesus in Kottayam filed a complaint against the Bishop, accusing him of raping her repeatedly 13 times since the year 2014. When the church failed to take action on this matter, the nun approached the Kerala police and also staged protests demanding his arrest.
The Missionaries of Jesus congregation, to which the nuns belong, condemned the nun’s allegation and protests against the bishop. As the demands for Mulakkal’s arrest grew, the missionaries temporarily relieved him of all pastoral responsibilities, after Mulakkal expressed a desire to step down. He also wrote to the Vatican.
Following this, the bishop was booked under Section 376 of the Indian Penal Code. The bishop has swiftly denied all the charges which were filed against him and reportedly said that it was a “conspiracy.”