Thiruvananthapuram: Bishop Franco Mulakkal, a senior member of the Roman Catholic clergy in India, has been sent to judicial custody till October 6 and will be lodged in Pala sub-jail amid mounting public outrage over allegations of repeatedly raping and sexually assaulting a nun.
The Jalandhar bishop was arrested by Kerala police after intense interrogation on September 21.
The Vatican has relieved him "temporarily" of all pastoral responsibilities as the bishop of the Jalandhar diocese of the Missionaries of Jesus congregation to which the alleged victim also belongs. The nun had accused the 54-year old clergyman of repeatedly raping and having unnatural sex with her between 2014 and 2016.
According to Kottayam district police chief Hari Sankar, the bishop has been slapped with charges, including rape, illegal confinement, unnatural sex and intimidation. There were evidences to arrive at a reasonable suspicion that the clerygyman had committed the crime, he said. During the interrogation, the accused was given reasonable time to narrate his version to the investigating team, he said.
Members of various Christian reformation organisations and nuns have been staging a protest close to the Kerala High Court premises for the last two weeks.
In her complaint to Kottayam police in June, the nun had alleged that Bishop Mulakkal raped her at a guest house in Kuravilangad in May 2014 and later sexually exploited her on several occasions. She said she had to approach police as the church authorities did not act on her repeated complaints against the clergyman.
Earlier this month, she wrote to the Vatican's representative in New Delhi, alleging that the bishop was using "political and money power" to "bury" the case and seeking his removal. The scandal got murkier when the bishop too filed a complaint against the nun, claiming he was being blackmailed by her for not extending her favours.
Outrage over the delay in the top clergyman's arrest, meanwhile, grew. The protests by Christian reformation organisations escalated after some nuns of the religious order came out of the confines of their convent and joined the agitation.
As pressure mounted on police for action against Mulakkal, it asked him to present himself before the Special Investigation Team on September 19. A day ahead of his scheduled appearance, Mulakkal filed an anticipatory bail petition in the Kerala High Court claiming allegations against him were a "cooked up story to wreak vengeance".
In his petition, Mulakkal said he was "absolutely innocent" and was "falsely implicated" with an "ulterior motive and vexatious intention".
Mulakkal alleged that the nun had an illicit relationship with a relative and a complaint about it was received by her congregation. "This crucial aspect needs to be considered along with the complaint made by her own cousin alleging the de facto complainant of having illicit relationship with her husband,” Mulakkal said in his plea before the high court, which was to hear it on September 25.
(With PTI inputs)