By Matters India Reporter
Palai, July 17, 2019: The Judicial First Class Magistrate Court in Pala, Kerala, has posted the hearing in the controversial nun rape case against Bishop Franco Mulakkal of Jalandhar to July 23.
The hearing was postponed on July 16 following a submission by the accused’s counsel that several documents handed over by the prosecution were not legible. The court then asked the prosecution to hand over fresh copies of the documents by July 23.
On July 10, the magistrate had posted the case for July 16. The court, which is to commit the case to Principal Sessions Court, Kottayam, for starting the trial has temporarily withheld procedures after Bishop Franco’s lawyer demanded more documents, including statements of mahassar witnesses in the previous sitting.
Following this, the prosecution handed over copies of a few documents when the case was considered on July 9. At the same time, the prosecution filed a detailed note with regard to the request of the accused bishop’s counsel seeking statements of some magistrates who are also arraigned as witnesses. The prosecution said the magistrates were mahassar witnesses and hence their statements were not recorded.
The prosecution also informed the court that copies of all documents except those protected by law, were handed over to the accused.
“We had handed over copies of the chargesheet, statements and other related documents for verification of the accused when the Bishop appeared before the magistrate on May 10. Though we had given all records earlier, we once again handed over the copies to avoid a dispute,” said Jithesh J Babu, special public prosecutor in the case.
Bishop Mulakkal has been accused of sexually abusing the nun between 2014 and 2016. A First Information Report was registered against the bishop on June 28, 2018, and a 114-page statement was taken from the nun and other inmates of the convent.
He became the first Catholic bishop in India to be arrested in a sexual abuse case. He was arrested in Kochi on September 21, 2018, following questioning by the Kerala State Police for three days.
After spending three weeks in judicial custody, Bishop Mulakkal secured bail from the Kerala High Court. The Special Investigation Team had submitted a charge-sheet on May 10 this year.