Bishop Franco Mulakkal appears in court

Bishop Franco Mulakkal appears in court

Bishop Franco Mulakkal. Reuters file photo

Bishop Franco Mulakkal, accused of raping and sexually assaulting a nun in Kerala, Friday appeared before a magistrate court in Pala.

The Pala Judicial First Class Magistrate Court (JFMC), which issued summons to the accused last week directing him to appear before it on May 10, accepted his plea seeking further extension of bail.

The accused was handed over a copy of the charge sheet and other related documents filed against him by the Special Investigation Team of the Kerala police which investigated the case.

The court posted the matter for June 7 for further consideration.

Mulakkal offered prayers at a church in Bharananganam near Pala before appearing in court.

Last month, the special investigation team had filed the charge sheet against Bishop Mulakkal, seven months after he was arrested over allegations of raping and sexually assaulting the nun.

Mulakkal was former Bishop of Jalandhar diocese and a senior member of the Roman Catholic clergy in India.

The nun, who belongs to Missionaries of Jesus congregation under Jalandhar diocese, had accused the 55-year old clergyman of repeatedly raping and having unnatural sex with her between 2014 and 2016.

He allegedly committed the offence when he was the Bishop of the Jalandhar diocese.

He has been charged under various sections of the Indian Penal Code, including 342 (punishment for wrongful confinement), 376C (sexual intercourse by person in authority), Section 377 (unnatural sex) and 506(1) (criminal threat).

In her complaint to police in June last, the nun had alleged that Mulakkal raped her at a guest house in Kuravilangad in May 2014 and later sexually exploited her on several occasions.

She said she had to approach police as church authorities did not act on her repeated complaints against the clergyman.

Mulakkal, however, has claimed that he was "absolutely innocent" and "falsely implicated" with an "ulterior motive and vexatious intention."

Ahead of his interrogation and arrest, the Vatican had relieved him "temporarily" of all pastoral responsibilities as the bishop of the Jalandhar Diocese.

Mulakkal was arrested in September last amid mounting public outrage over allegations of repeatedly raping and sexually assaulting the nun.

He was released from a sub-jail in Pala on October 16 after the Kerala High Court granted him bail.