“Praise the Lord”, Kerala Bishop Franco Mulakkal said after he was acquitted in the nun’s rape case, where he was the primary accused. The former bishop of the Jalandhar diocese was acquitted by the trial court earlier today, a verdict that has sparked massive reactions from the masses around the country. For the unversed, Mulakkal was accused of raping a nun after an FIR was filed against him by the survivor in 2018, alleging that he subjected her to unnatural sex for about three years.

The bishop had categorically denied allegations against him, claiming them to be “fabricated”, and further claiming that action must be taken against the alleged survivor. The verdict on Friday brought an end to the 105-day long trial.

The Facts of the Matter

“Daivathinusthuthi (Praise the Lord!)”, was what rape accused Kerala Bishop Franco was quoted saying today after being acquitted of all the allegations of raping a nun. The case’s significance stems from the fact that this was the first time a bishop from the Roman Catholic Church was arrested on allegations of rape in the country.

The case is also significant as it was the first time a spotlight was turned towards the excruciating traumas nuns bear behind the opaque veils of the Church. The Church has already been accused of having a laughable redressal mechanism in such issues – transferring the accused to a different diocese.


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A Rewind into the Curious Case of Bishop Franco

Back in June 2017, the nun survivor wrote to another Bishop and complained that Bishop Franco was trying to intimidate her. She also wrote to multiple church authorities, however, no action was taken against the bishop.

A year later, in June 2018, the survivor filed a complaint against the Bishop at the Kottayam District police Chief. She alleged that the bishop raped her multiple times and subjected her to unnatural sex between 2014 and 2016.


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FIR Filed Against Bishop, Survivor Vilified

For the same an FIR was registered and the bishop was charged under multiple sections of the IPC including Section 376 and Section 377. It took a year for the survivor’s statement to be recorded. Meanwhile, several strategies to break the resolve of the survivor were applied, including vilifying her and raising questions on her character.

Bribe Offered, Case Progresses

In 2018, the survivor’s acquaintance also came out and announced that she was offered a huge bribe to take down the complaint. Kerala government continued facing flak for not expediting the case. National Commission for Women had earlier sought the expedition of case.

In August 2018, a special investigation team took to Jalandhar and Bishop Franco was interrogated for the first time. Nuns of the diocese were also made to give their statements. As no arrest was still made, the Joint Christian Council sat on a hunger strike demanding the arrest.

Survivor Writes to Vatican, Bishop Franco Alleges ‘Anti-Church’ Agenda

In September 2018, the survivor also reached out to Vatican ambassador in India, seeking justice in the matter. At this time, Bishop Franco alleged the survivor to be working with ‘anti-church’ agenda and claiming that she was paid for the same. The same month, the Pope relieved the Bishop from his duties.


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The Arrest, the Bail, the Acquittance

On September 21, 2018, the Bishop was finally arrested, making it the first time a Bishop was arrested on the given charges in India. A month later, in October 2018 a bail was granted by the Kerala Court. In January 2020, Franco files plea to be discharged, claiming he was “falsely implicated”. The petition was dismissed in March 2020.

In July, 2020, the Bishop moved to the Supreme Court seeking discharge and in August, the top court also discharged the plea. The same month, the Kottayam District Court granted Bishop another bail. About six months later, the verdict was finally announced by the court.

 

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