KOTTAYAM: Pressure is mounting on the police for registering a fresh case against Bishop Franco Mulakkal, former head of Latin Catholic Diocese of Jalandhar and an accused in a rape case filed by a nun, in view of a fresh sexual harassment allegation that has come up against the prelate. While legal experts point out that the police are bound to register a suo motu case against the accused in the wake of receiving information about a cognizable offence as per rules, Save Our Sisters (SoS), a voluntary organisation which stands for ensuring justice for nuns, alleged serious lapses on the part of the police in taking up the case.
The new development has emerged following the statement of the 14th witness in the existing rape case against the bishop, admitting that she also encountered sexual misbehaviour from the part of the bishop, that was leaked out to the media recently. In her statement to the investigation team on September 9, 2018, the 14th witness who is also a nun of the same diocese stated that, the bishop had groped and kissed her on April 30, 2017, at a convent in Kannur. This apart, bishop also forced her for sexual chat during 2015- 17 period.
According to legal experts, these pieces of evidence are sufficient for the police to register a suo motu case. Otherwise, they will have to face legal consequences. As per the rulings of the Supreme Court, and a couple of circulars issued by state police chief on various occasions, failing to register a case in cognizable offences can invite legal action against the police officer concerned.
“It was revealed during the course of investigation in a rape case against Bishop Franco that he molested a witness which is an offence under Section 354 of IPC. Police have also recorded a statement under Section 162 of CrPC in this regard. “This is a cognizable offence and police have no option but to register a case. Though the witness is reluctant to give a signed statement, police are duty-bound to register a separate case in this regard even suo motu. Failure to register a separate crime can invite prosecution against the police officer concerned under Section 166A(c) IPC, which is also a cognizable offence committed by a police officer,” said Santhosh Jacob, an RTI activist.
According to Shyju Antony, joint convener of SoS, the organisation would take up the matter legally. “It is learnt that the police didn’t register a case because the victims were not ready to press ahead with a complaint, which can’t be cited as a reason as the police are bound to register the case. Police should have first registered the case and filed an FIR,” Shyju said.