After three days of interrogation, Bishop Franco Mulakkal (54), who has been accused of repeatedly raping a nun, was arrested on Friday evening. Mulakkal, who holds a doctorate in moral theology, is the first Indian Catholic bishop to be arrested in a rape case. He will be produced before a court in Kottayam district on Saturday.
“With reasonable suspicion, the investigating officer has been convinced about the charges framed against the bishop. The probe has revealed that the bishop has committed the crime and the allegations raised against him by the nun are reasonably true,’’ said Kottayam SP Hari Sankar.
Police sources said while Mulakkal stuck to his stand that he did not rape the nun, he was arrested following contradictions in his statements, circumstantial evidence, statements of witnesses, and the nun’s statement under Section 164 of the CrPC.
In June, a nun had complained that Mulakkal had raped her 13 times at the mission house in Kottayam district, over a period of two years from May 5, 2014. While the police registered a case in Kottayam on June 28, the probe against him dragged on for nearly three months.
Mulakkal, who was relieved of his pastoral duties as the Jalandhar bishop on Thursday, was questioned by the Kerala police in Jalandhar last month. On Wednesday, he was summoned to Kerala for interrogation.
According to sources, Mulakkal denied that he went to the mission house on May 5, 2014, when he first allegedly raped the nun. However, sources said, police have a statement from the driver who reportedly drove him there that evening. While Mulakkal reportedly claimed that he went to another convent after dinner that day, the superior of that convent is learnt to have denied this. The visitors’ register at the mission house also shows that Mulakkal was there on the days mentioned by the nun, said sources.
There were alleged attempts to get the nun to withdraw the complaint. Earlier, police arrested a senior priest, James Earthayil, who reportedly promised 10 acres of land to the nun if she withdrew the complaint. The nun filed a police complaint against Mulakkal after his public relations officer, Fr Peter Kavumpuram, filed a complaint against her brother alleging that he had threatened to kill the bishop.
The investigation against Mulakkal gained momentum after five nuns, under the banner of Save Our Sisters Action Council, launched a protest against him in Kochi on September 8.
“The bishops and the Church authorities should shed their criminal silence on the issue. Our agitation was not against the person, but against his wrong deeds and attitude. The bishop tried to trap our sister (who accused him of rape) in fabricated cases and threatened her with dire consequences if she complained against the abuse,’’ said Sister Anupama, one of the protesting nuns.
“There should not be another Franco in the Church. This incident should lead to reformation of the Church,’’ she said.
Before he was appointed as the Jalandhar bishop in 2013, Mulakkal served as the auxiliary bishop of Delhi from 2009. A resident of Thrissur, he was ordained as a priest for the Jalandhar diocese in April 1990.