A court in Kerala on Friday acquitted Roman Catholic Bishop Franco Mulakkal of the charges of raping a nun in a convent in the state, citing various reasons, including the victim’s inconsistent version of incidents and lack of corroborative evidence to prove the prosecution case.
Mulakkal, 57, was accused of raping the nun multiple times during his visit to a convent in Kottayam district between 2014 and 2016 when he was the Bishop of the Jalandhar Diocese of the Roman Catholic Church. The complainant is a member of the Missionaries of Jesus, a diocesan congregation under the Jalandhar Diocese.
Acquitting the Bishop, Additional Sessions Judge G Gopakumar in the order said the victim’s claim that she was raped on 13 occasions under duress cannot be taken reliance on the basis of her solitary testimony.
“There is no consistency in the statement of the victim… In view of the inconsistent version of the victim, this court is of the view that she cannot be categorised as a sterling witness. She cannot be categorised as a wholly reliable witness as well," the order said.
The court also said that the grievance projected by her to her companion sisters was that the accused was taking retaliatory steps for not yielding to his sexual desires, whereas her version before the court was that she was forced to do sexual intercourse with the accused on 13 occasions.
The judgment further said that the prosecution had failed to give proper
explanation for the inconsistent version.
“Apart from the testimony of the victim, there is no corroborative evidence to prove the prosecution case. The police could not seize the mobile phone used by the victim which would have provided some input into the alleged vulgar messages sent by the accused. The explanation offered for the non-production of the phone is thoroughly dissatisfactory,” the order read.
“This is a case in which the grain and chaff are inextricably mixed up. It is impossible to separate the grain from the chaff. There are exaggerations and embellishments in the version of the victim. She has also made every attempt to hide certain facts,” it further said.
The court observed that the victim was “swayed under the influence of others”.
“The in-fight and rivalry and group fights of the nuns, and the desire for power, position and control over the congregation is evident from the demand placed by victim and her supporting nuns who were ready to settle the matter if their demands for a separate region under the diocese of Bihar is accepted by the church," the order said.
Sister Anupama, who was the face of the nun’s years-long fight for justice, said they would challenge the verdict in higher court.
“We will continue our stay in the convent and take forward our fight till our sister gets justice. Police and prosecution showed justice to us but we did not get the expected justice from the judiciary," the nun told reporters.
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