While a court in Kerala on Friday acquitted a bishop in the rape case of a nun, the National Commission for Women has extended its support to the victim.
Rekha Sharma, the chairperson of the National Commission for Women, tweeted the story of the bishop’s acquittal saying, “Shocked at the judgment of Kerala Addl. dist and session court”.
Sharma said the nun should approach the high court against the judgement, adding “NCW is with her in this fight for justice”.
The Additional District and Sessions Court I in Kottayam, from the southern state of Kerala, on January 14 acquitted Franco Mulakkal, 57, former head of the Latin Catholic Diocese of Jalandhar, of all charges in connection with a rape complaint filed by a nun in the same diocese.
On Friday, the trial court in Kottayam found him not guilty of the charges.
“The prosecution failed to prove all the charges against the accused,” said Kottayam Additional Sessions Judge (ASJ) G Gopakumar.
Mulakkal left the court smiling, cheered on by his supporters. His counsel distributed a press statement in Malayalam – issued by the Bishop’s House in Jalandhar – announcing his acquittal and thanking his supporters.
Sr Anupama, the colleague of the survivor nun told media persons: “Money and influence can win over anything. Times are such. Ordinary mortals like us are silenced”.
“The justice we got from the police and the prosecutors, we did not get from the judiciary. We thank all the good people who stood by us all these days. We will continue this battle until our sister gets justice, even if we have to die for this cause”.
Mulakkal was the bishop of a diocese in Jalandhar in the northern state of Punjab. The bishop was accused of raping a nun between 2014 and 2016, in a case that shocked the country.
The petitioner is a 44-year-old former superior general of Missionaries of Jesus, a congregation functioning under Jalandhar diocese. She alleged that the bishop had raped her 13 times when he visited the convent in Kottayam, where she lived.
Mulakkal is the first Indian Catholic bishop to be arrested in a rape case and lodged in judicial custody for 25 days after his arrest in September, 2018.
The case sparked widespread protests after the nun alleged that the Catholic Church had ignored her complaints. The allegations were followed by unprecedented street protests by nuns, who demanded action by the church, police and the Kerala government.
The Vatican temporarily relieved the bishop of his duties.
The trial commenced in 2020, and even though Mulakkal approached the High Court and the Supreme Court with a plea to quash the charges against him, the courts refused to entertain his plea.
“This is an extremely unfortunate verdict, it is shocking for us. We had expected a conviction fully. We will appeal. We had a lot of corroborative evidence. All the witnesses in the case were ordinary people,” investigating officer S Harisankar, former Kottayam SP, told reporters.
The nun’s lawyers said they would challenge the verdict in the high court.
(Agencies; Picture Courtesy: ANI)