Bishop's Acquittal: 'Prepared to Die for Justice,' Say Nuns; 'Praise the Lord,' Says Mulakkal

Nuns of the Kuravilangad Convent in Kottayam have made it clear that they will challenge the acquittal of the Bishop who was charged with rape.

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New Delhi: Nuns of the Kuravilangad Convent in Kottayam, National Commission for Women chairperson Rekha Sharma and others have extended support to the survivors in the aftermath of a court’s acquittal of Roman Catholic Bishop Franco Mulakkal of charges of raping a nun in a Kerala convent.

Nuns of Kuravilangad Convent where the survivor lives and who have been supporting the survivor in her fight said that the verdict will be challenged.

Sister Anupama, who was the face of the nun’s years-long fight for justice, said they would take forward the fight of their colleague.

“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.

In a broken voice, she also said the verdict gives them a message that ordinary mortals like them should never break their silence against any injustice and fight a case whatever happened to them in the life.

“Those who are wealthy and influential can do anything in this society. That is what we see around us now. We have never felt anything strange till the time of argument of the case. We believe it was sabotaged after that,” she said.

When asked whether they would be safe in the convent, she said they had never been safe there and they could not reveal many things happening inside the institution.

“The entire attempt was made to look at the sexual assault survivor in a cold and mechanical manner. There was a consistent effort to psychologically put her down,” Sandhya Raju, a lawyer who assisted the prosecution, told The News Minute.

Sister Anupama also made it clear that they were even ready to die to get justice for the survivor.

Activist-nun Sister Lucy Kalappura, who took part in the survivor’s fight for justice and was expelled from her congregation recently, said the verdict was regrettable and expressed hope that justice would be prevail at any cost in the higher court.

Extending support to the nun, National Commission for Women chairperson Rekha Sharma tweeted, “Shocked at the judgment of Kerala Addl. dist and session court. The victim nun must go to high court. NCW is with her in this fight for justice”.

‘Wrong message’

Terming the verdict as “very very unfortunate” and “unnatural”, senior IPS officer S. Harishankar, who had led the special investigation team in the rape case, said a 100% conviction was expected in the case and the verdict was a source of “astonishment” for the entire legal system of the country.

“The argument that the woman should have reacted at the time of molestation is unacceptable. An appeal will be filed in the higher court challenging this verdict. The state police chief already gave instructions in this regard and an appeal will be filed as soon as we get a copy of the verdict,” he told reporters.

Even the Supreme Court made it clear multiple times that the victim’s statement, if it is consistent and not having massive contradictions, is a satisfactory piece of evidence for conviction, he said, adding that it would give a wrong message to society and those suffering similar assaults silently.

Public prosecutor, Jithesh J. Babu, said it was a single-line judgment and could avail the details only after getting the copy of the verdict.

“We do not know what has happened. Thirty-nine witnesses have given their statements supporting the prosecution. No one has turned hostile. As many as 122 documents had been submitted and there was ample evidence. There was no lapse in anything,” he said.

He also said the verdict would be challenged in the higher court and the decision would be taken after consulting with the government and the investigators.

‘Praise the Lord’

Mulakkal, who arrived in the court to hear the verdict, burst into tears after the verdict and hugged his followers and lawyers.

“Only the trees that bear fruits are stoned. I am just proud of that. Praise the Lord,” an elated bishop told reporters outside the court.

Some of his followers were seen crying out of joy.

Mulakkal, 57, was accused of raping the nun multiple times during his visit to a convent in this district when he was the Bishop of the Jalandhar diocese of the Roman Catholic church.

The rape case against the Bishop was registered by police in Kottayam district in June, 2018.

In her complaint to the police, the nun had alleged that she was subjected to sexual abuse by Franco between 2014 and 2016.

The Special Investigation Team which probed the case, arrested the Bishop in September 2018 and charged him with wrongful confinement, rape, unnatural sex and criminal intimidation.

Trial in the case, started in November 2019, had concluded on January 10. The court had restrained the print and electronic media from publishing any matter relating to the trial in the case without its permission.

(With PTI inputs)