No merit in petition, says SC while dismissing Bishop Franco’s plea

Mulakkal, in his plea, has challenged the Kerala High Court order of July 7, dismissing his discharge plea in the rape case filed by the nun

Bishop Franco Mulakkal argued that he was implicated after he questioned the financial dealings of the nun. File photo: PTI

The Supreme Court on Wednesday (August 4) directed Bishop Franco Mulakkal to face the trial as it dismissed his plea seeking discharge in the rape case lodged against him by a nun, saying there was no merit in his petition.

A bench of Chief Justice S A Bobde, A S Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian told the counsel for the Bishop that the court was not saying anything on merit but was dismissing the plea on the issue of discharge from the case.

“You don’t have a case and there is no merit in your petition,” Chief Justice of India SA Bobde was quoted as saying by NDTV.

Mulakkal, in his plea, has challenged the Kerala High Court order of July 7, dismissing his discharge plea in the rape case filed by the nun. The Kerala High Court on July 7 rejected his petition seeking discharge in the case

The High Court had asked the deposed Bishop of Jalandhar diocese to stand for trial in the rape case, which was registered on the basis of a complaint filed by a nun of same diocese in Kerala.

The nun is a member of the Missionaries of Jesus congregation in Punjab.

The high court had dismissed the plea by the bishop, admitting the prosecution argument that there was prima facie evidence against Mulakkal in the rape case, which was registered on the basis of a complaint filed by a nun of Jalandhar diocese.

The senior priest of the Roman Catholic Church had filed the revision petition following the dismissal of his discharge plea by a trial court in March this year.

In his plea filed before the High Court, the accused priest argued that he was implicated after he questioned the financial dealings of the victim nun.

The bishop had filed the discharge plea in the trial court just ahead of commencement of the preliminary hearing on charges against him.

The trial was scheduled to begin on November 11, 2019, but was deferred to November 30. It was put off once again to January 6, 2020 after Mulakkal sought more time.

Mulakkal filed a discharge plea in the trial court in Kottayam to clear the charges against him, claiming that the rape survivor targeted him after he took action against her for “financial irregularities” in the convent.

On July 1, the bishop also skipped a hearing at the Kottayam additional district court, claiming his house was in a COVID-19 containment zone. However, a public prosecutor later pointed out that his area was not a containment zone and that it was a deliberate attempt to delay the case.

The nun, in her complaint to the police in June, 2018, had alleged that she was subjected to sexual abuse by the bishop during the period between 2014 and 2016. The rape case against the Bishop was registered by police in Kottayam district.

The bishop, who was arrested by the Special Investigation Team which probed the case, charged him with wrongful confinement, rape, unnatural sex and criminal intimidation. He was released on bail after 40 days.

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