Thiruvananthapuram, June 12, 2019: The transfer of the police officer who investigated the rape case against former Jalandhar bishop Franco Mulakkal has led to protests in Kerala.
Many are alleging that the move is aimed at weakening the case the bishop, citing earlier attempts to silence witnesses and sabotage the case.
“The trial in the case began only last month and we fear DySP K Subash Kumar’s transfer will affect it. There have been many attempts to silence some of the witnesses. His transfer at this stage raises many doubts,” said Sister Anupama, one of the five nuns who sat on dharna last year in Kochi seeking action against Mulakkal.
The Save Our Sisters Forum (SOS), an outfit formed in the wake of nuns’ protest, also decried the move. “This will affect the smooth handling of the case. We will approach the government against,” said a spokesman of the SOS, adding that there was enough pressure on the officer who investigated the case.
A senior police officer, who did not want to be identified, said the transfer was a routine affair and it will not affect the case. Subash Kumar has been transferred to Idukki district.
The case against Franco Mullakkal surfaced in June last year when a 43-year-old nun complained to the police that he had raped her 13 times between 2014 and 2016. When the police failed to arrest him, five fellow nuns had staged a sit-in protest in Kochi that attracted national attention.
A special investigation team was formed and it arrested Mulakkal in September after several rounds of questioning. He was later removed from the post of bishop.
After spending three weeks in judicial custody, Mulakkal secured bail from the Kerala High Court. The SIT had submitted a charge-sheet on May 10.
In the 2000-page chargesheet he was arraigned as an accused under several sections of IPC, including 342 (wrongful confinement), 376 (rape of a woman incapable of giving consent) and 377 (unnatural offence). If proven guilty, he may get a punishment of life imprisonment. The SIT also listed 83 witnesses in the case, including Major Archbishop Cardinal George Alancherry and several magistrates who recorded statements of the victim and witnesses.
Nuns, who stood with the victim, said that they were victimised for turning against the powerful bishop. Five nuns were transferred and but Church authorities were forced to cancel it following intervention of courts and activists.
Jalandhar Arch Diocese runs many educational institutions and convents in north India. Despite serious charges levelled against Mulakkal, the church is yet to disown him, said the nuns. When he appeared in the court to accept the copy of chargesheet many priests accompanied him. This is the first time in the country a senior functionary of the Church is facing such charges.