Chargesheet filed against rape-accused Franco Mullakal

Chargesheet filed against rape-accused Franco Mullakal
Chargesheet filed against rape-accused Franco Mullakal

The Special Investigation Team (SIT) probing rape charges against former bishop of Jalandhar Franco Mullakkal on Tuesday filed a charge-sheet in the case, almost a year after he was accused of sexually assaulting the nun.

This is the first time in the country where a former bishop is facing the trial based on a complaint filed by a nun. “After months of struggle we are happy the case is coming to a logical conclusion. We have won the case almost half. This is the happiest moment for us. God is with us, truth will prevail finally,” said Sister Anupama, one of the nuns who sat on dharna in Kochi demanding action against Mullakkal.

In last June, a 43-year-old nun, also a mother superior, had complained to the Kerala police that Mullakkal had raped her 13 times between 2014 and 2016. Initially there were many attempts to hush up the complaint against the powerful priest.

When police failed to arrest him, five nuns had staged a sit-in protest in Kochi. Later an SIT was floated and it arrested Mullakkal in September last year after several rounds of questioning. He was later removed from the post. After spending three weeks in judicial custody he was granted bail.

There were many attempts to silence witnesses in the case, and some nuns who deposed against him were threatened with expulsion. Later, the High Court had ordered protection to main witnesses. One of the witnesses in the case, Sister Lucy said she was confined to illegal custody and threatened to be locked up in a mental asylum.

The charge-sheet was submitted after the agitating nuns threatened to hit the street again. They met the Kottayam police superintendent a number of times and wrote to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan to expedite the case.

All five nuns who participated in direct action were later transferred to various parts of the country but they refused to move out saying it was an attempt to weaken the case. When the state backed the nuns in their fight against Mullakal, the church blamed them for “inviting disrespect to the community and becoming a tool in the hands of some”.

Many serious charges, including rape, unnatural sex, illegal confinement, destruction of evidence and breach of trust, have been raised in the charge-sheet. There are 83 witnesses, including 25 nuns and 11 priests. The statements of 10 main witnesses had been recorded by magistrates to prevent them from turning hostile. The charge-sheet was filed in the first class judicial magistrate court in Pala, Kottayam district.

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