Indian bishop refused bail on rape charge

Bishop Franco Mulakkal, who denies raping nun, faces new charges of trying to bribe witnesses
Indian bishop refused bail on rape charge

Indian media gather in front of Bishop Franco Mulakkal's house in Jalandhar on Aug. 13 after a nun in his congregation claimed he had raped her. (Photo by Shammi Mehra/AFP)

A state court in southern India has denied bail to a Catholic bishop accused of raping a nun on grounds that his release from jail may hamper investigations as he could influence witnesses.

The High Court of Kerala on Oct. 3 said releasing Bishop Franco Mulakkal of Jalandhar would not help the investigation or delivering justice in an "efficient, smooth and fair" manner.

"The court finds no reason to conclude at this stage, at least prima facie, that the allegations levelled by the nun are false and frivolous," the court order said.

It also said that the accused could use his high-profile position to influence witnesses, who are mainly members of the nun's congregation that functions under the bishop.

The Vatican removed Bishop Mulakkal from the administrative responsibilities of his diocese on Sept. 19.

Kerala police arrested him on Sept. 21 after the 48-year-old nun complained to police on July 28 that the bishop raped her 13 times between 2014 and 2016. The nun belongs to Missionaries of Jesus, a diocesan congregation.

Bishop Mulakkal has denied the charges. Soon after the police complaint was filed, he told that the case was fabricated to take revenge on him after he initiated disciplinary action against the nun for her violations of religious vows including obedience and chastity.

Lawyer Vijay Bhanu, who represented Bishop Mulakkal in court, told that the rejection of bail was a setback for the bishop. He claimed further detention of his client was not necessary as he had been questioned for several hours in the past month before and after his arrest.

Lawyers told the court that three new cases had been filed in connection with alleged attempts by the accused to buy witnesses' silence.

The bishop is accused of offering land, buildings and money through the mediation of a Catholic priest. He is also charged with offering a bribe to the nun's brother.

Family members of the nun said she had been disowned by the diocese and her congregation after filing the police complaint. They say she sought civil means to seek justice after church officials including the Vatican had ignored her complaint for almost a year.

"So far, no senior members of the church have visited the nun," Father Sebastian Pallasserry, a brother of the nun and a priest in Jalandhar Diocese, told Her congregation has also abandoned her, he said.

Activists of Save our Sisters Action Council, which supported a street protest by five nuns demanding the arrest of the bishop, are calling for a speedy trial.

"We are closely monitoring the case to decide our future course of action," said Shaju Jose, who participated in a protest that gained considerable public attention and led to the arrest of the bishop.

Sign up to receive UCAN Daily Full Bulletin
Thank you. You are now signed up to our Daily Full Bulletin newsletter
© Copyright 2019, All rights reserved
© Copyright 2019, Union of Catholic Asian News Limited. All rights reserved
Expect for any fair dealing permitted under the Hong Kong Copyright Ordinance.
No part of this publication may be reproduced by any means without prior permission.