Bishop to be questioned; HC to hear bail plea on Sep 25

Bishop to be questioned; HC to hear bail plea on Sep 25

Mulakkal filed the application this morning, claiming the allegations against him were a "cooked up story to wreak vengeance" and seeking pre-arrest bail. (Image courtesy Twitter)

The Kerala High Court will on September 25 hear an application for anticipatory bail by Franco Mulakkal, the rape accused bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Jalandhar.

The bishop approached the court on Tuesday with a plea for pre-arrest bail, a day before his scheduled appearance before the investigation team for questioning, in Kottayam. The court also sought the prosecution’s views on the matter when it comes to hearing. Franco, 54, is accused of raping a Kottayam-based nun attached to the Missionaries of Jesus (MJ) congregation multiple times, between 2014 and 2016.

With the bail application pending before the court, police are unlikely to arrest the bishop. Franco stated in his plea that the nun’s allegations were false and based on personal differences she had with him. He also said the complainant, in her first statement to the police, had not mentioned rape.

Other MJ sisters who back the complainant are leading a protest in Kochi since September 8. Activists and Church members have extended support to the agitation which has since spread to other parts of the state, as calls for Franco’s arrest get louder. Sr Anupama, one of the nuns protesting against the bishop, told reporters that some of the evidence validating the nun’s allegations had already been handed over to the police. Police in Kottayam is making arrangements ahead of the interrogation, led by Vaikom DySP K Subhash.

The bishop has written to Pope Francis seeking permission to temporarily keep away from administrative responsibilities since he is preparing for a legal battle in connection with the case.

Last week, the High Court held that investigation in the case was on course. “...we are of the prima facie view that the investigation is being conducted in a fair and professional manner, and at this stage, it would be inappropriate for this Court, to issue any specific direction on the conduct of the investigation,” a division bench said in its September 13 order.