Former Bishop Franco Mulakkal of Kerala who was arrested in 2018 regarding a rape gets clean chit by Kerala court

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Former bishop Franco Mulakkal, accused by a nun of raping her several times between 2014 and 2016, was on Friday acquitted by the Kottayam Additional District Court in Kerala. As the prosecution failed to produce evidence against the accused, the Additional District and Sessions Court II acquitted the Bishop.

The Additional District and Sessions Court in Kottayam on Friday acquitted erstwhile Bishop Franco Mulakkal of the Catholic Church in the nun rape case.

Additional Sessions Judge G Gopakumar pronounced the highly-anticipated verdict today morning in the presence of Mulakkal.

Advocates B Raman Pillai, C.S . Ajayan, Sujesh Menon, Mahesh Banu. Nibu and Akhil represented Mulakkal in the case.

Expressing his shock at the verdict, superintendent of police S Harishankar, who supervised the investigation, said the verdict is unbelievable. “We will definitely go for appeal. There are enough corroborative and circumstantial evidence. Wrong to say there are not enough evidences. We are really disappointed. We will go for appeal”.

While the trial began in November 2019, it got delayed and was finally completed on Monday, January 10, 2022. It was an in-camera trial and the media was prohibited from reporting details about the trial, as per Bishop Franco's counsel's request.

Later on, in August 2018, a plea was filed before the High Court alleging that there has been no move to interrogate or arrest the accused and seeking a directive to arrest Franco Mulakkal. This was disposed of by the Court noting that the investigation was proceeding on the right track.

After two more PILs with similar prayers were moved in September 2018, the Court had sought a status report on the investigation in the case.

Soon, on 22nd September 2018, Franco Mulakkal was remanded to police custody for further interrogation by the Judicial First Class Magistrate, Pala for two days after three days of interrogation.

Within two days, he was remanded to judicial custody by the Judicial First Class Magistrate, Pala till October 6. He was accordingly taken to Sub Jail, Pala on September 24, 2018.

On October 3, 2018, the Court refused to grant him bail noting that there existed a prima facie case against the accused and that it was a premature application since the investigation was steadily progressing in the matter even after his arrest.

Meanwhile, challenging the order of the trial court, he moved the High Court, but his plea was again rejected accepting the prosecution's argument that there was prima facie evidence against Mulakkal on July 7 2020.

In her police complaint in June 2018, the nun had alleged that she was subjected to sexual abuse by Franco, then Bishop of the Jalandhar diocese of Roman Catholic Church, between 2014 and 2016.

The case sparked widespread protests after the nun alleged that the Catholic Church had ignored her complaints. The Vatican had temporarily relieved the bishop of his duties.

"The prosecution failed to prove all the charges against the accused," said Kottayam Additional Sessions Judge (ASJ) G Gopakumar. The nun's lawyers said they would challenge the verdict in the high court. But the bishop's legal team said it had "shattered the entire evidence" against him.