The Kerala Police arrested bishop Franco Mulakkal for allegedly raping a nun multiple times between 2014 and 2016. With this, Mulakkal became the first Indian Catholic bishop to be arrested in a case of sexual abuse against a nun. Franco Mulakkal was posted at the Jalandhar Diocese and he allegedly raped the nun during official visits to Kerala. Before arrest, the police had recorded a fresh statement of the nun who had accused him of rape. They also sought clarifications on some evidences. Mulakkal’s arrest came after three days of questioning during which the bishop made a few inconsistent statements.
While denying the allegations levelled against him, Mulakkal claimed he did not stay at the convent in Kuravilangad on May 5, 2014, the day the nun was allegedly raped for the first time. When police cross-checked this information with his driver and another nun who made entries of his visit in the register, they found that the bishop and his driver actually stayed in the Kuravilangad convent on the said day. To ward off allegations against him, the rape-accused bishop had provided a DVD of an event that took place on May 6, 2014 (a day after the first rape). Through the DVD, the bishop asked if he had raped the nun, why would she attend an event with him the next day? After verifying the DVD, police found that its contents were edited and that video revealed that nun was “deeply upset and depressed” on the day when the event was held.
The 45-year-old nun associated with the Missionaries of Jesus congregation in Kuravilangad in Kerala’s Kottayam district, had filed a police complaint against bishop Franco Mulakkal on June 27.
In her complaint, the nun said that on May 5, 2014 the bishop visited the convent in Kuravilangad and stayed in the guest house in room number 20. She said the bishop called her to his room at night and forced her to have unnatural sex with him. The next day, the bishop attended a function that was organised by the nun. The nun had alleged that the bishop raped her 13 times between 2014 and 2016. Ever since the allegations surfaced, he has maintained that nun has filed a case against him because of vendetta.
Bishop Franco Mulakkal, a native of Mattom village in Thrisur district of Kerala was ordained as a priest in 1990 and became an auxiliary bishop in 2009. He was appointed as the bishop of Jalandhar in 2013. The alleged rapes were committed during his tenure at Jalandhar. Facing the heat over the nun’s allegations, he stepped down on September 15 after the Kerala Police summoned him for interrogation. The perceived delay in initiating action against bishop Franco Mulakkal, accused of raping a nun, had indeed made the police an object of curiosity or, worse, scorn. Few days after being arrested, Franco Mulakkal, filed a bail petition in the Kerala High Court on Monday, September 24, 2018. In his bail petition, he said that the allegations levelled by the nun were “wholly concocted and cooked up only to wreak vengeance” for the action taken against the nun. Besides, his health was fast deteriorating, he said. Police said he will be under judicial custody till October 6. Few days later, the Missionaries of Jesus congregation of Jalandhar met Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and complained against the police team probing the case. Fifteen nuns from the Jalandhar congregation came in support of the accused bishop Franco Mulakkal, and alleged that the police investigation into the case was “biased.” Weeks later The Kerala High Court granted bail to bishop Franco Mulakkal on conditions that he should appear before the investigating officers once every fortnight; not enter Kerala except for appearing before the officers; and surrender his passport before the subordinate court concerned. Few days later, Fr. Kuriakose who testified against Bishop Franco Mulakkal, was found dead at a church in Hoshiarpur’s Dasuya. The relatives lodged a complaint with the Alappuzha police demanding a probe into the ‘mysterious sudden death.’ Jose Kurian, younger brother of Father Kuriakose Kattuthara, petitioned Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan seeking a through investigation into the death.
In April 2019, Kerala police finally filed the chargesheet against Mulakkal that had more than 100 pages and was submitted before the Pala Sessions Court on Tuesday afternoon.
There were 84 eyewitnesses, including Archbishop of Ernakulam - Angamaly George Alencherry, Bishop Joseph Kallarangatt of Pala diocese, Bhagalpur Bishop Kurian Valiyakandathil and Bishop Sebastian Vadakkel of the diocese of Ujjain. Eleven priests, three bishops and 24 nuns had also been quoted in the chargesheet. After hearing the matter, the court said it will pass an order on the petition. Sister Anupama has been leading a movement to seek justice for the nun who was allegedly raped by Franco Mulakkal. The nun had alleged that Mulakkal himself is behind the conspiracy to sabotage the case against him. The Pala court in Kerala had found discrepancies in cyber-forensic report presented before it. The court then directed the investigating officer in the case to produce a fresh copy of the forensic report after it found that the earlier copy submitted by the forensic lab was different from the one produced by police. If found guilty, he could get life imprisonment or imprisonment of not less than 10 years.