Kerala Nun Rape Case: Accused Bishop Franco Mullakal Steps Down

The bishop stepped down as Bishop of the Jalandhar Diocese on 15 September, days after being summoned by police.

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Rape-accused Bishop Franco Mulakkal stepped down as Bishop of the Jalandhar Diocese, temporarily handing over charge of the diocese to Father Mathew Kokkandam, The News Minute reported.

The Bishop, who is the primary accused in the Kerala nun rape case, stepped down temporarily on 15 September, just days after being summoned by Kerala police.

I am likely to be called for further clarifications by investigating officer in Kerala. I appoint Reverend Father Joseph Thekkumkattil and Reverend Father Subin Thekkedathu.
Bishop Franco Mulakkal’s statement
Bishop Franco Mulakkal’s statement
Bishop Franco Mulakkal’s statement
(Photo Courtesy: The News Minute)

The bishop has also reportedly written to the Pope expressing his desire to step down temporarily from the responsibilities of the diocese, and has sought his permission. According to the Diocese of Jalandhar, the bishop is required to travel to Kerala, and has requested to be absolved of his responsibilities temporarily.

The chairperson of the National Commission for Women Rekha Sharma called the Bishop’s stepping down the “first win” for in the case.

Meanwhile, Catholic Bishops' Conference of India clarified that they are silent because they have no jurisdiction in the issue of individual Bishops.

Nuns: Will Not Rest Till Bishop Franco Mulakkal is Arrested

A group of protesting nuns from Kerala on Saturday, 15 September, said that they "will rest" only after Mulakkal is questioned and arrested. Speaking to IANS, one of the five nuns who along with hundreds of people were protesting in Kerala said: "We will not rest and we will not be happy till he is questioned and arrested."

The nun's remarks came after reports have surfaces that the accused, Bishop Franco Mulakkal of the Roman Catholic Diocese in Jalandhar, was handing over his charge.

Another nun said that Bishop Franco was very powerful and cannot be underestimated. “We will continue the protest and will not stop till Bishop Franco is arrested.”

Meanwhile, ANI quoted sources as saying that the accusations against the Bishop have been brought to the notice of the Vatican, on 15 September. ANI added that the church’s representative from India was at the Vatican to discuss the issue and is expecting intervention in the coming days.

Police Summon Rape-Accused Bishop Mulakkal

Kerala police on Wednesday, 12 September, had summoned the Bishop, asking him to appear before it on 19 September. An FIR was registered against the bishop and a 114-page detailed statement was taken from the survivor and other inmates of the convent, IANS reported.

Bishop Franco has been asked to appear on 19 September. There are a lot of contradictions in the case. This is an old case based primarily on oral evidence. We have verified a lot of contradictions. It’s our duty to protect the victim and witnesses.
IG Vijay Sakre, as quoted by ANI

On Thursday, 13 September, Jalandhar Police Commissioner PK Sinha said that the case came under the purview of the Kerala Police as the incident allegedly occurred there.

A case can’t be tried at two places. Nuns filed complaint in Kerala & Kerala Police is probing. The alleged incident happened in Kerala, so even if a case had been filed with us, we would’ve transferred it to Kerala
PK Sinha, Jalandhar Police Commissioner

Conspiracy Against Church: Accused Bishop

Earlier on 11 September, the Bishop broke his silence on the allegations of rape by the nun, claiming that the case was a conspiracy against the Church.

I feel there are people who are against the church, they’re using these sisters. This is a conspiracy and several people are taking advantage of the situation, they are putting sisters at the forefront.
Bishop Franco Mulakkal, Accused

He added that he was questioned by the police for nine hours and said the nuns who were protesting had the “right” to do so.

"They (police) took her statement too and there were contradictions. They (police) are studying it as to who's speaking the truth. I've heard they're (nuns) protesting. It's their right to protest," he said.

Meanwhile, the Jalandhar police commissioner said his team would merely assist the Kerala police in their investigation, denying any active role in the case.

Missionaries of Jesus Congregation Sides With Bishop

The Missionaries of Jesus Congregation alleged that Bishop Franco was accused of rape for acting on a complaint filed by a nun's relative claiming she was having sexual relationship with complainant's husband, reported ANI.

The MoJ Congregation, of which the nun is a member, is reportedly planning to join the court case.

Our probe found substance to allegations that the nun was in a relationship with complainant’s husband. For nuns, losing honour is like death. The victim was seen laughing with the bishop a day after when the rape was supposed to have happened.
Missionaries of Jesus Congregation

Protesting Nuns Take to the Streets

On Saturday, 8 September, five nuns from the victim's Kottayam convent, to which the victim belonged, took part in the demonstration and alleged that she had been denied justice by the church, police and the government as no action has been initiated against the accused.

"We are fighting for our sister. She has been denied justice by the church, government and the police. We are ready to go to any extent for ensuring justice to our sister," a nun told protesters, who held placards demanding arrest of Bishop Franco.

Meanwhile, the nun's brother alleged that his friend was approached by the Bishop's relative and two priests with an offer of Rs 5 crore in return for withdrawal of complaint, reported NDTV.

'The Nun is a Prostitute': MLA PC George Faces Flak for Comment

Meanwhile, in a disparaging comment, independent Kerala MLA PC George had called the victim “a prostitute”.

No one has a doubt that the nun is a prostitute. Twelve times she enjoyed it and the thirteenth time, it is rape? Why didn’t she complain the first time?

The nun's family had said they would initiate legal action against George for hurting her sentiments.

What is the Case About?

The nun had accused Jalandhar Bishop Franco of raping and having unnatural sex with her multiple times between 2014 and 2016.

A police affidavit filed in the Kerala High Court said that investigation so far and the evidence collected revealed that the accused Bishop Franco “committed unnatural offence” and “committed rape” repeatedly, reported ANI.

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