Nun rape case: Inconsistent versions of survivor pose questions on her credibility, says court

Kochi: The inconsistent versions at different points of time to different persons, pose questions on her credibility, the court which acquitted Roman Catholic Bishop Franco Mulakkal of the charges of raping a nun in a convent in the state, has said about the survivor.

Acquitting Mulakkal, Additional Sessions Judge-I of Kottayam Gopakumar G on Friday cited various reasons including the victim's inconsistent version of incidents and lack of corroborative evidence to prove the prosecution case.

In his 289-page verdict, the judge said the survivor's claim that she was raped on 13 occasions under duress cannot be relied on the basis of her solitary testimony.

The court said the prosecution failed to produce the mobile phones of the survivor, a witness and others even though the entire case was "built around some obscene messages" sent by the accused to the phone of the survivor.

"The messages claimed by PW1 (nun) to have been sent by the accused in response to her stand that she will not permit him to stay in the convent gives an insight into the nature of relationship between the accused and PW1," the court said.

The court said the message sent by the accused to the nun does not reveal any threat or intimidation.

"The message of the accused going by the Sec.164 statement of the victim was that 'with heavy heart I am joining with your decision'. 'I want to see you, I want to need you, call me'. No threat or intimidation or force is revealed from these messages," the judge noted in his judgment.

The court also said that a series of photographs and visuals submitted in the court by the accused showed that she had close interactions with the accused on the days after the alleged sexual violence.

The verdict says the documents show that the survivor had travelled long distance with the accused in his car and had attended many functions on almost all days, "next to the days of the alleged forceful sexual violence."

"These inconsistent versions at different point of time to different persons, pose questions on her credibility," court said.

Mulakkal, 57, was accused of raping the nun multiple times during his visit to a convent in this district between 2014 and 2016 when he was the Bishop of the Jalandhar Diocese of the Roman Catholic Church. The complainant is a member of the Missionaries of Jesus, a diocesan congregation under the Jalandhar Diocese.

Noting that the survivor's original version to the doctor was that there is no history of penetrative sex, the court referred to various judgments and said in view of her inconsistent version, it is of the view that she cannot be categorised as a sterling witness and also cannot be categorised as a wholly reliable witness.

Meanwhile, a section of the legal fraternity lashed out against the acquittal and said the judgment looks like a charge sheet against the survivor.

"The court could have approached the rights of the survivor in a positive manner. The court failed to consider the limitations and restrictions faced by her. It seems like the court has completely rejected the contentions of the survivor and blindly accepted the version of the accused," Syam Devaraj, Research Scholar in Media Law, University of Kerala told PTI.

Another lawyer, who did not wish to be named, said the court failed to understand the fact that the Bishop was in an authoritative position in the Church.

"The condition of nuns, living under constant scrutiny, was not considered by the judge while writing this verdict. Instead the court chose to decide that the previous behaviour of the accused to another witness is not a relevant issue in this trial," the lawyer said.

The court in its judgment noted that a prosecution witness had deposed that the accused had once put his hands over her shoulder and pulled her towards him.

"But as already pointed out, the behaviour of the accused to PW8 (witness) is not a relevant issue in this trial," the court had said in the verdict.

Mulakkal is the first Indian Bishop arrested in connection with a rape case.

In her complaint to the police in June, 2018, the nun had alleged that she was subjected to sexual abuse by Mulakkal between 2014 and 2016.

The SIT arrested the Bishop in September 2018 and charged him with wrongful confinement, rape, unnatural sex and criminal intimidation.

Trial in the case, which started in November 2019, had concluded on January 10. The court had restrained the print and electronic media from publishing any matter relating to the trial in the case without its permission.


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