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Arrest warrant issued against rape-accused Indian bishop

Order comes less than a week after Kerala high court dismissed the bishop's appeal to discharge him from the same case

UCA News reporter, Kochi

UCA News reporter, Kochi

Updated: July 14, 2020 12:57 PM GMT
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Arrest warrant issued against rape-accused Indian bishop

Five nuns of Missionaries of Jesus during a public demonstration in Kochi on Sept. 22, 2018 seeking the arrest of Bishop Franco Mulakkal of Jalandhar, accused fo raping their Superior General. (Photo: UCA News) 

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A trial court in southern Indian Kerala state has canceled the bail granted to rape-accused Bishop Franco Mulakkal and issued a non-bailable arrest warrant against following his failure to appear before the court on July 13.

The district and sessions court in Kottayam also posted the matter for next hearing on Aug. 13.

"Yes, the court has canceled Mulakkal's bail and issued a non-bailable warrant against him," said public prosecutor Jithesh J Babu.

"The court has also served notices on two persons who stood as guarantors while he obtained bail for their failure to produce him in the court for trial," Babu told UCA News on July 14.

The trial court order came less than a week after Kerala High Court dismissed his appeal to discharge him from the same case.

The bishop is facing trial on rape charges after a Catholic nun, the former superior of Missionaries of Jesus — an indigenous diocesan congregation under Bishop Mulakkal — accused him in June 2018 of raping her four years ago.

The nun alleged the bishop sexually abused her more than 13 times over two years during his visits to Kerala, where the congregation has a convent.

When the case came up for hearing, the prelate's counsel sought an adjournment as the bishop was in quarantine.

The counsel told the court that the bishop went in quarantine after a lawyer with whom the bishop consulted in Punjab in connection with the case was tested positive for Covid-19.

Since the prelate was on the primary contact list, the administration has asked him to go into quarantine. His swab samples were collected for testing and produced the documents to prove the claim.

Bishop Mulakkal's counsel also produced a flight ticket dated July 7 booked for the bishop to travel to Kerala. However, he had to cancel the trip as he had to go into quarantine.

However, the prosecution opposed any move to adjourn the case any further.

The prosecution lawyer said the bishop was trying to delay the proceedings and pointed out that in the previous hearing on July 1, the prelate had misled the court.

The bishop has missed more than 12 similar dates to appear in the court, delaying his trial.

Bishop Mulakkal, during the last hearing, sought adjournment on the plea that he could not travel to Kerala as his residence was in the containment area, and the officials did not sanction his travel from Punjab to Kerala.

This proved wrong, and prosecution provided documents to prove that neither his residence was in the containment zone nor had he sought permission from the authorities, and that led the court to take a serious stand against him.

Sources close to the victim told UCA News she had filed a caveat in the Supreme Court following a report that Bishop Mulakkal was going to appeal against the July 7 high court order that dismissed his plea to discharge him from the case.

Once the caveat is filed, the court will not pass any order, including interim, without hearing the opposite party.

Meanwhile, Save Our Sisters, a lay movement formed to ensure justice for rape victims, has urged the state government to send police officials to Punjab to arrest the prelate.

"Since the bishop is not cooperating with the trial, he should be brought back to Kerala and kept in custody until the completion of the trial," Shaiju Anthony, joint secretary of the movement, told UCA News on July 13.
Kerala police filed a 2,000-page charge sheet against Bishop Mulakkal in April 2019.

Police arrested the bishop on Sept. 21, 2018, a fortnight after five nuns of the same congregation as the complainant staged a sit-in in Kochi. He was released on bail three weeks later on Oct. 15.

The bishop continues to live in Jalandhar Bishop's house, maintaining the bishop's title as he has not been suspended. The Vatican has, however, appointed an apostolic administrator to run the diocese.

The case has 83 witnesses, including Cardinal George Alencherry, head of the Syro-Malabar Church.

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