Explained: What is Kerala Nun Rape Case?

Franco Mulakkali, former Bishop of the Jalandhar Diocese of the Catholic Church was acquitted In the Kerala nun rape case, the trial court on Friday pronounced the verdict by Judge G Gopakumar, Additional District Court, Kottayam.

What is Nun Rape Case?

In an FIR lodged at the Kuravilangad police station in June, 2018, a senior nun belonging to the Order of the Missionaries of Jesus of the Catholic Church accused Franco Mulakkal, the then bishop of the church’s Jalandhar diocese, of raping her. and for having unnatural sex 13 times at the Mission Convent in Kuravilangad between 2014 and 2016.

The bishop alleged that the allegations against him were fabricated and were in retaliation for taking action against him in relation to a complaint made by a woman.

Shortly after the FIR was registered, in September 2018, a group of nuns close to the victim began a hunger strike in front of the Kerala High Court complex in Kochi, demanding the arrest of Mulakkal. The protest was a success as Mulakkal was brought from Jalandhar to Kochi, questioned by the police for three days and eventually arrested. He came out on bail after about a month.

The trial began in September 2020 and even though Mulakkal approached the High Court and the Supreme Court to quash the charges against him, the courts refused to entertain the petition.

What are the charges against Mulakkal?

Mulakkal faced several charges, including illegal confinement, sexual assault through abuse of power, unnatural sex, rape and outraging the modesty of a woman. Subhash, DSP of Vakkam, was the investigating officer.

The verdict came at the end of the 105-day-long hearing in the closed court. There were 83 witnesses on the list, of whom 39 are said to have testified for the prosecution. The defense produced nine witnesses. Witnesses include Major Archbishop George Alenchery of the Syro-Malabar Church, 11 priests, 25 nuns, seven magistrates who gave secret testimony and four bishops, including a doctor who conducted the medical examination.

Tight security arrangements were made outside the Kottayam Additional Sessions Court on Friday morning. (express photo)

Why is this matter important?

This is the first time a Catholic bishop has been arrested and booked on charges of rape and sexual assault in India. Mulakkal was relieved of official duties in Jalandhar diocese after being charged by the police in a rape case. The case also highlighted the horrors that nuns face within the church and that there is hardly any mechanism in place for grievance redressal. Often, complaints of harassment against senior clergy go unnoticed and are deliberately buried by people in higher management. The decision in the case will prompt further discussion on the unilateral power structure within the Church and will hopefully force amendments.

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