The Kerala government on Wednesday approved the move to appeal against a lower court’s verdict which found Bishop Franco Mulakkal not guilty in the nun rape case.
According to India Today report, district Additional Sessions Court in Kottayam acquitted the Bishop of all charges on January 14, 2022. The Police had immediately made clear their intention to appeal the verdict. With sufficient legal advice, the government has now decided to move forward with the appeal.
Police arrested Bishop Franco on September 21, 2018 and charged him with wrongful confinement, rape, unnatural sex and criminal intimidation. The case had sparked a massive uproar in the state. Trial began in November 2019. However, the court absolved the Bishop of all charges.
Former Kottayam SP Harishankar, who headed the probe in the case, had called the trial court’s verdict “shocking” and insisted that there was enough medical and corroborative evidence, as well as witness testimonies, to convict the Bishop.
The prosecution and victim in the nun rape case will file also be filing separate appeal petitions in the Kerala High Court against the acquittal of Catholic Bishop.
For the unversed, the trial in the case extended over 105 days with 39 witnesses being examined and 122 documents produced before the court.
While serving as Bishop of the Jalandhar Diocese of the Roman Catholic Church, Franco was accused of raping a nun, who belonged to the Missionaries of Jesus congregation.
During his visits between 2014 and 2016 to Kerala, he was accused of raping the 43-year old nun on 13 occasions. Later, he was removed from the charge of the Jalandhar diocese. A complaint was filed against him in June 2018 in Kerala and Mulakkal was arrested on September 21, 2018 on rape charges.
He secured bail on October 16, 2018.
The charge sheet named 83 witnesses, including the Cardinal of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, Mar George Alencherry, three bishops, 11 priests and 22 nuns.
Of the 83 witnesses, 39 were called and they were heard. Franco had approached the Kerala High Court and also the Supreme Court to quash the FIR against him, but both the courts failed to do so and the trial began.
(with agency inputs)