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Bishop Franco Mulakkal had moved the High Court seeking discharge from a rape prosecution that was initiated after a nun levelled charges of rape against him.
The Kerala High Court yesterday dismissed Catholic Bishop Franco Mulakkal’s revision petition against a lower court’s rejection of his discharge application. The priest has been implicated in a complaint filed by a nun accusing him of rape (Franco Mulakkal v. State of Kerala)
A Single-Bench of Justice V Shircy pronounced judgment in the case on Tuesday. Drawing on various Supreme Court decisions, Justice Shircy found that a prima facie case was made out for the prosecution of Father Mulakkal.
The Court added that ascertaining whether the complainant’s case was concocted or true would have to be decided in trial, after evaluating the evidence.
In her complaint, the complainant has alleged that she was raped multiple times by the Bishop, who threatened to have her killed if she made the incidents known.
The incidents, recorded to have taken place between 2014 and 2016, were finally reported to the Police in 2018. On the basis of the nun’s complaint, an FIR was lodged and investigations ordered. The chargesheet in the matter was finally filed on April 9 last year.
After this, the Mulakkal applied to the Additional Sessions Judge-1 (Kottayam) for a discharge under the Criminal Procedure Code, on the ground that he was falsely implicated and that there were no grounds to proceed further against him. This application was dismissed in March this year.
In hearings before the High Court, Mulakkal through his counsel Advocate Alex Joseph claimed that the Court below had “merely relied on the statement of the Sister (complainant) and dismissed his application”.
Arguing further, he averred that the facts did not disclose a prima facie case that could merit prosecution. The sister’s “contradictory statements” were the only material available to support the rape allegations, the judgment records Advocate Joseph as having contended.
Further, Mulakkal submitted that the allegations have been “maliciously” fabricated as a response to his institution of “disciplinary proceedings” against the complainant.
Mulakkal also accused the lower court of having conducted a “mini trial” of his case when rejecting his application.
Special Prosecutor for Atrocities against Women and Children Ambika Devi argued that the lower court was fully justified in dismissing Mulakkal’s discharge application.
Referring to the records of statements made by witnesses, she submitted that there were sufficient grounds for proceeding against Mulakkal. The investigation was conducted fairly with relevant material duly collected, Prosecutor Devi told the Court.
Based on the recorded statements of the complainant, the High Court made a prima facie observation that Franco Mulakkal appeared to have misused his official capacity to silence the complainant for two years resulting in the delay in her filing the complaint.
While dismissing the discharge plea, the High Court observed that a discharge plea can be allowed only where there are glaring circumstances to show that the prosecution has not produced sufficient material to proceed against the accused.
On the other hand, "when materials prima facie show that the accused had committed the alleged offences, it is doubtless that he is not entitled for a discharge under Section 227 of the Code of Criminal Procedure", the Court said.