By Matters India Reporter |
Kottayam, August 13, 2020: The District and Session Court in Kottayam, Kerala, on August 13 formally charged Bishop Franco Mulakkal of Jalandhar for alleged rape of a Catholic nun.
The trial court read out the chargesheet that accused Bishop Mulakkal of raping former superior general of Missionaries of Jesus congregation 13 times between 2014 and 2016 without her consent and also threatening her using the power of his office.
The court then posted the next hearing in the case for September 16 and summoned the rape survivor to come to the court to be examined.
The court in a brief proceeding asked Bishop Mulakkal if he accepted the charges against him and the prelate replied “no,” leading to the initiation of the trail process in the case.
The 56-year-old bishop has thus become the first prelate in India to be formally chargesheeted for the offence of rape.
Prosecution lawyer Jithesh J Babu told media persons outside the court, “Yes the court has formally framed the charges of rape against Bishop Mulakkal who was present in the court.”
Babu also said with the reading of the chargesheet in the court “the process of trial in the case has started.”
Unlike in the past, Bishop Mulakkal came without displaying religious symbols of a bishop. Dressed in a pair of trousers and a shirt, the bishop stood in the witness box like other ordinary persons.
The Kottayam court had on August 7 restored Bishop Mulakkal’s bail that was canceled on July 13 after he avoided appearances despite several summonses. The court has also ordered the prelate’s arrest.
The court stayed the arrest until August 7 after the bishop produced a certificate on July 13 showing he was Covid-positive.
On the same day, he finally appeared in the trial court to plead for the restoration of his bail.
Public prosecutor Jithesh J Babu told media persons that the court restored the bail to Bishop Mulakkal with certain conditions.
The prosecution did not oppose the bail after Mulakkal agreed to be present for the trail.
The court had directed the bishop not to leave Kerala until August 13.
After listening to the chargesheet, the bishop reportedly left for Jalandhar later in the day.
Bishop Mulakkal became the first Indian Catholic bishop to be arrested in a sexual abuse case. He spent 24 days in a jail Kerala from September 21.
The High Court on October 15, 2018, granted him bail.
Bishop Mulakkal has told Matters India through several WhatsApp messages that he was “the real victim” of a baseless case. The “victim” nun had turned against him for ordering a probe against her financial mismanagement. The nun was the former superior general of the Missionaries of Jesus, congregation under the Jalandhar diocese.
The bishop also says that he has faith in the Indian judicial system which will eventually prove his innocence.