Bishop Franco Mulakkal acquittal | Prosecution to appeal in Kerala High Court

Several ‘shortcomings’ found in judgment.

January 15, 2022 07:29 pm | Updated January 16, 2022 07:29 am IST - Kottayam

Bishop Franco Mulakkal greets the media as he leaves a court in Kottayam on January 14, 2022.

Bishop Franco Mulakkal greets the media as he leaves a court in Kottayam on January 14, 2022.

A day after the Additional District and Sessions Court I in Kottayam acquitted bishop Franco Mulakkal, former head of the Latin Catholic diocese of Jalandhar, of all charges in connection with a rape complaint filed by a nun, the prosecution has decided to move an appeal against the verdict in the High Court.

In an order on Friday, the court held that it had been unable to place reliance on the solitary testimony of the survivor and to hold the Bishop guilty of the offences charged against him.

According to Special Public Prosecutor Jithesh Babu, a decision on the appeal followed a detailed analysis of the judgment, which runs to 289 pages. From discrediting of all prosecution witnesses to undue delay in its publication, the prosecution pointed out several shortcomings in the court order.

Noting that the judgement sought to discredit the survivor on minor differences in various statements, it held that the court had to appreciate the principle adopted by the apex court that ‘minor changes in deposition is a sign of credibility while it is the parrot like version that has to be discarded’. The court had held that the claim of the victim that she was raped on 13 occasions under duress could be relied on the basis of her solitary testimony. It had also noted that ‘there were exaggerations and embellishments in the version of the victim.’

‘Witnesses discredited’

Similarly, all prosecution witnesses have been discredited as unbelievable on minor grounds while the circumstances in which they gave statements were not appreciated. The social background of the nun and the context which led to different expressions on her experience too have not been appreciated.

“The fact that the term penetrative sexual intercourse was not used each time by the survivor cannot be looked upon as omission as the survivor has no legal knowledge. Rather it should have added to her credibility,” it was noted.

Holding that the judgment failed to appreciate genuine explanations on the delay in lodging complaint and the aspect of fiduciary relationship and its repercussions on the mental condition of the survivor, the prosecution pointed out that all the couer rulings presented by it in its argument note were surprisingly missing in the judgment.

According to the prosecution, the judgement seemed to give a colour of consent to the act, which had not been raised even by the accused. Further, none of the small mistakes apparently found in the investigation had anything to do with the crux of the case.

It further noted that the judgment was not read or signed in the court and there was undue delay in its publication, which were against guidelines.

Protection for nuns

Meanwhile, District Police Chief Shilpa Devaiah said steps had been taken to ensure the safety of the dissident nuns, who openly protested against the bishop at the St. Francis Mission Home, Kuravilangad. “We have done the risk assessment, which will be reviewed periodically and the security arrangement will continue as long as they require it,” the official said.

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