Express News Service
KOCHI: Finally, Franco Mulakkal of the Jalandhar Diocese became the first bishop in India to be arrested on charges of rape after his arrest was officially recorded by the Special Investigation Team (SIT) of the Kerala Police on Friday night, concluding over 20 hours of grilling which began on September 19.
Franco’s arrest came a day after Vatican temporarily relieved him of his pastoral duties.
It was after high drama and suspense that began around noon that top police officers finally confirmed the arrest of the bishop, around 8 pm. Though a few police officers said the arrest of the bishop was confirmed by noon, Kottayam SP Hari Sankar continued to deny it till 7. 30 pm.
However, Ernakulam Range Inspector General Vijay Sakhare told ‘Express’ that the arrest of the bishop was recorded at night and he would be produced before the court on Saturday. Late in the night, Bishop Franco was taken for medical check-up to the Tripunithura Taluk Hospital and later to Kottayam for producing him before the Judicial First Class Magistrate Court in Pala. Sakhare confirmed on Friday night: “He will be produced tomorrow at the Pala court.”
The arrest took place 85 days after an FIR was registered on June 28 at Kuravilangad police station based on the complaint of a nun of Jalandhar-based Missionaries of Jesus that the Bishop had raped her multiple times for a period of two years.
On Friday, the bishop was questioned for over eight hours at the special interrogation centre in the Crime Branch office at Tripunithura. Police officers said the remand report for producing the bishop before the court was prepared earlier in the day and it was thoroughly perused by higher officials, including the office of the Director General of Prosecutions.
The SIT led by Hari Sankar was under pressure right from the beginning of the probe because of the high profile stature of the accused and the politico-religious ramifications the arrest could result in.SP Hari Sankar and Vaikom DySP K Subash were having detailed meeting with higher officers, mainly Inspector General Sakhare, right from Thursday but couldn’t take a conclusive decision on the arrest of the bishop till Friday evening.