After a trial of more than 100 days, the additional sessions court pronounced a single line verdict saying it had found him not guilty of the charges.
Bishop Franco Mulakkal, a former priest accused of raping a nun multiple times over two years in a case that sparked massive outrage and protests in Kerala, was acquitted by a court today.
Franco Mulakkal, 57, was the first Catholic bishop in India to go on trial for rape on the complaint of a nun. After a trial of more than 100 days, the additional sessions court pronounced a single line verdict saying it had found him not guilty of the charges.
He was seen exiting the court in Kottayam with a smile after the verdict.
In 2018, the nun from the Missionaries of Jesus congregation under the Jalandhar diocese had accused Bishop Franco of repeatedly raping her between 2014 and 2016 while he was head of the Missionaries of Jesus order. He denied the allegations.
The allegations were followed by unprecedented street protests by nuns, who demanded action by the church, police and the Kerala government.
The police started an investigation months later after five nuns protested outside the High Court. The nuns also wrote to the Vatican, seeking its intervention. The nuns came under heavy criticism within the church and they were targeted with a wave of threats and accusations.
A Special Investigation Team that investigated the allegations finally arrested the Bishop in September 2018 and charged him.
Bishop Franco Mulakkal was arrested after three days of questioning by the police. The trial started in November 2019.
Then Kottayam police chief S Hari Shankar expressed shock at today’s verdict. “There was strong evidence in this case. No witness turned hostile,” he said.
The court had restrained the print and electronic media from publishing anything related to the trial without its permission.
In 2020, the Supreme Court had rejected the Bishop’s request for a review of its earlier decision to dismiss his petition against the rape charges.
Mulakkal had told the court that he had been framed and had raised questions on the financial dealings of the nun who had accused him.