HC denies bail to Bishop in Kerala nun rape case

HC denies bail to Bishop in Kerala nun rape case

The Kerala High Court on Wednesday dismissed a bail application by Franco Mulakkal, the rape accused bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Jalandhar.

The court said that the prima facie evidence validated allegations against the 54-year-old clergyman.

Hearing the bail plea, Justice Raja Vijayaraghavan V accepted the prosecution’s argument that granting Franco bail could adversely impact the ongoing police investigation in its crucial phase.

Franco was, on September 24, remanded by the Pala Judicial First Class Magistrate to judicial custody till October 6.

He is lodged in the sub-jail in Pala, in Kottayam district, since his arrest on September 21.

Franco is accused of having raped a Kottayam-based Missionaries of Jesus (MJ) nun multiple times between May, 2014 and September, 2016 during his visits to Kerala.

He is charged with rape, unnatural sex, wrongful confinement and criminal intimidation.

The Crime Branch is investigating a case against Fr James Erthayil for reportedly trying to influence witnesses in the case.

The bishop who was temporarily removed from his pastoral responsibilities before his arrest has denied the “concocted” allegation.

He has maintained that he is being targeted for initiating disciplinary action against the complainant.

Franco’s supporters have questioned the survivor’s motives and pointed out that the nun, after the reported rape, had continued to associate with the bishop in public events.

The case has rocked the Catholic Church in Kerala— a 14-day protest against Franco led by five MJ nuns in Kochi had garnered massive support from the public and some of the priests and sisters.

The bishop’s arrest was recorded 86 days after the nun approached the police with her petition.

The official bodies of the Church have disowned the nuns’ agitation.

The MJ congregation has repeatedly backed Franco and reported a conspiracy against him.

The Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Council, while expressing regret over the bishop’s arrest, criticised the “roadside protest” which it claimed gave an opportunity for the “enemies” to launch a campaign against the Church.