Nun rape: Charge sheet against former bishop Franco

Nun rape: Charge sheet against former bishop Franco

The Kerala police on Tuesday filed charge sheet against former bishop of Jalandhar Franco Mulakkal in the nun rape case.  The charge sheet was filed at a local court in Kottayam district.

Franco was charged under various sections of Indian Penal Code for rape, unnatural sex, illegal detention and criminal intimidation. He allegedly raped a nun of a convent at Kuravilangad in Kottayam district in Kerala several times between 2014 and 2016.

According to police sources, there are about 85 witnesses in the case, including Major Archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church Cardinal Alencherry, and two other bishops. About ten priests and 25 odd sisters are also among the witnesses. Ten witnesses even gave statements before a magistrate under section 164 of CrPC.

Evidence for Franco's presence at the convent in Kottayam on the days on which the alleged crime occurred and medical tests on the bishop and the nun are the key evidence in the case. The nun, aged around 45, alleged that she was sexually abused 13 times. She lodged a formal police petition on 2017 June. But the investigation got a push only after protests by a group of nuns under the banner ‘Save our sisters’ in Kochi.

Vaikom DySP K Subash conducted the investigation under the supervision of Kottayam district police chief S Harishankar. Despite strong pressure from the Catholic church and protest from a section of believers, the Kerala police arrested Franco on September 21, 2018. He was then serving as bishop. Franco had to spend about a month in jail under judicial remand and was later released on bail. Following the arrest, Franco was relieved from the charges of the bishop.

Though the charge sheet was prepared several weeks back, it was pending legal scrutiny and clearance from police headquarters. As the filing of charge sheet got delayed indefinitely, a group of nuns who earlier came out in the open against the Franco again threatened to launch demonstration. Subsequently, the police expedited the filing of the charge sheet.

Even after being relieved from the charge of the bishop, Franco was allegedly having control over the administration of the church as many nuns who were witnesses in the case and those who staged demonstrations were facing vindictive actions like transfer. Priest Kuruakose Kattuthara, one of the witnesses in the case, was even found dead under suspicious circumstances in Jalandhar, while another key witness sister Lizi Vadakeyil, alleged that she was facing severe torture from the church authorities.