Kochi / AMN
Catholic Bishop, Franco Mulakkal of the Jalandhar diocese was arrested by Kerala police in Kochi last night on sexual abuse charges against a nun. He was arrested after three days continuous interrogation by the police.
Bishop Mulakkal was questioned at Jalandhar in Punjab in August. Franco Mulakkal has been accused of repeatedly abusing the nun sexually between 2014 and 2016.
The police have taken him to Kottayam. The Kottayam Superintendent of Police said that he would be presented before the court today.
The arrest was officially recorded at 8 pm, S Harishankar, the Superintendent of Police, Kottayam, told reporters as they were taking the accused bishop for medical exam at the Taluq Hospital in Trippunithura, near Kochi.
With this, Mulakkal has become the first Catholic bishop in India to be arrested in a case of sexual abuse.
Harishankar said they would present Mulakkal before a magistrate at Palai on September 22 and seek custody for three days. After medical exam, the police took the bishop in civil dress to the Police Club in Kottayam, where he would spent the night.
Mulakkal’s lawyers have meanwhile prepared a bail application and two of his relatives have come forward to pledge security for his bail application.
The Special Investigation Team on September 21 took the statement of the survivor nun for the sixth time at her convent in Kuravilangad near Kottayam.
Mulakkal has been accused of sexually abusing the nun between 2014 and 2016. An FIR was registered against the bishop on June 28 and a 114-page statement was taken from the nun and other inmates of the convent.
Harishankar also said the arrested prelate are charged under sections 376(2)(N) for repeated rape of the same woman, section 377 for unnatural sexual offences, section 506 for threatening, 342 for unlawful assembly and section 376(2)(K) for sexual assault abusing power over a victim.
Mulakkal’s arrest took place after three days of questioning at a high-tech interrogation cell in Thrippunithura during which he made some contradictory statements.
While denying the allegations of rape, Mulakkal had claimed he had not not stayed at the convent in Kuravilangad on May 5, 2014, when the first alleged rape occurred. He maintained that he only visited the convent but stayed at another convent in Muthalakodam, some 40 km northeast.
However cross-checking this with his driver and another nun who had made entries of his visit in the register, the investigators found that the bishop and his driver had stayed in the Kuravilangad convent on that day.
A nun in the Muthalakodam convent also denied that the prelate had visited their convent. The police also reportedly collected the bishop’s mobile tower location data that indicated his presence on the night of May 5, 2014, in the Kuravilangad convent.
K. Subash, the deputy superintendent of police, was the chief investigating officer for the past three days. He was also the first one to meet the bishop when he questioned him in Jalandhar on August 11.
The news of arrest was welcomed with jubilation at the venue in Kochi where five nuns of the Missionaries of Jesus and officials of various groups have protested for the past 14 days.
Mulakkal had earlier said that a “conspiracy” has been hatched by a group of people who are against the Church. There were reports that the bishop even tried to bribe and lure the nun and her family to get them to withdraw the complaint against him.
However, the course of investigation changed after five nuns from Kuravilangad convent came forward to protest in Kochi and demanded justice for the victim. Activists, writers, celebrities and ordinary people joined the nuns’ protest demanding justice for the victim.
Additional input from Matters India