Nun rape case: Why is Kerala police questioning Bishop Franco Mulakkal when law requires his arrest?

While the investigation against Bishop Franco Mulakkal — accused of raping a nun 13 times between 2014 and 2016 — continues for a second day, the most important question which the police will have to answer is how a person accused of rape is being questioned without being arrested. The procedure that the law mandates, in a case involving non-bailable offences, is to arrest the accused and interrogate, once the accused is in custody.

It is up to the counsel of the accused to apply for bail and prove the grounds for issue of bail. In the case of non-bailable offence, bail is usually granted only if it proved that a prima facie case cannot be made out from the complaint registered.

The FIR registered on 28 June, at 6.12 pm in Kuravidangalu police station, Kottayam (a copy of which Firstpost has reviewed), pursuant to a complaint by the survivor nun, charges Mulakkal with Sections 342, 376(2)(k), 376(2)(n), 377, 506 for offences amounting to wrongful confinement, rape, unnatural sex and criminal intimidation. Mulakkal approached the high court for anticipatory bail, the hearing for which was adjourned to 25 September.

 Nun rape case: Why is Kerala police questioning Bishop Franco Mulakkal when law requires his arrest?

File image of Bishop Franco Mulakkal. ANI

“If the accused hasn’t been able to procure anticipatory bail, the police cannot delay arrest any further. But the police force behaves like this often, only when influential people are involved," says criminal advocate Paneer Selvam, practising in Tamil Nadu, who says he can mention multiple cases of immediate arrests when rape is in question.

Rajat Kalsan, a Haryana criminal lawyer, who has represented the victim in the Dabra gangrape case, as well as other such sexual offences, told Firstpost: "According to the CrPC, the procedure is clear: first arrest, then interrogate. They (police) delay saying (section) 164 (of the CrPC, which deals with the recording of confessions and statements) hasn't been filed, or medical evidence is awaited, but the criminal procedure code is unambiguous."

The Allahabad High Court had severely reprimanded the Uttar Pradesh government and Uttar Pradesh Police for delaying the arrest of Unnao BJP MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar, who is an accused in the Unnao rape. Similarly, different courts have routinely criticised police for delaying arrests of those in positions of power. But these delays continue, like it is evident from the case of Mulakkal.

The Kerala-based nun had accused the bishop of having sexually assaulted her repeatedly between 2014 and 2016 at a convent run by the Jalandhar diocese in Kottayam district.

Mulakkal has, however, dismissed the allegations as "baseless and concocted", insisting he was "innocent". He appeared before a Special Investigation Team (SIT) of the Kerala police for the second day on Thursday.

He arrived at the Crime Branch (CID) office in Thrippunithura and was quizzed by a five-member team headed by Vaikom Deputy Superintendent of Police, K Subhash, over the nun's allegations.

On Wednesday, the bishop, who traveled from Jalandhar to Kochi after being summoned by Kerala police, was questioned for seven hours. Mulakkal filed for anticipatory bail in Kerala High Court on Tuesday, which was deferred by the court to 25 September.

He also wrote to Pope Francis, the highest authority in the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy, expressing his desire to "temporarily step aside" from the responsibilities of the diocese, allowing him time to fight his case.

Several priests and nuns have been protesting against the bishop in Kerala. On Thursday, activists staged a protest outside the Kerala Secretariat in Thiruvananthapuram, demanding that the priest be arrested.

The nun wrote to Apostolic Nuncio, the representative of the Pope in India, demanding justice in the matter, following which the Vatican formed a one-member panel to probe the rape allegations against the priest.

With inputs from TK Devasia and PTI

Updated Date: Sep 21, 2018 07:13:34 IST