There were already questions about the attitude of Kerala’s authorities regarding the investigation into rape charges against a Catholic bishop when PC George, an independent Member of Kerala’s Legislative Assembly, decided to wade into the matter on Saturday. “No one has doubt that the nun is a prostitute,” said George, at a press meet in Thiruvananthapuram. “Twelve times she enjoyed it and the 13th time it is rape? Why didn’t she complain the first time?” George is infamous for this sort of thing. He has frequently shamed women for speaking out against those who have sexually harassed them, and even received notices from the National Commission for Women for his behaviour.
But in some ways, George’s deplorable actions are a reflection of how authorities in general have approached this case, in which a nun has accused Franco Mulakkal, who is currently the Bishop of Jalandhar, of raping her several times between 2014 and 2016. The nun is a member of the Missionaries of Jesus congregation based in Punjab’s Jalandhar, but it runs two convents in Kerala – one in Kottayam and the other in Kannur. The alleged abuse took place in Kottayam.
On Saturday, in a somewhat unprecedented action, a group of nuns from Kochi publicly protested the delay in investigation and action against Mulakkal, against whom the complaint had first been filed nearly more than two months ago. The police have taken statements from the nun accusing the bishop on 12 different occasions, but have only interrogated him once. There is a general belief that Kerala police have dragged their heels on the case since it involves a prominent member of the church.
“I saw an announcement made by the DGP that they have reached the final stage of the investigation. Isn’t he ashamed to say this?” said Kemal Pasha, a retired justice formerly of the Kerala High Court, on Saturday. “It is a rape case. The accused should be presented in court. Let the prosecution present proof. But that’s not happening. What you see is a give and take policy between the police and the accused. They think that nuns are not capable of reacting.”
The nun, meanwhile, seems likely to move the Kerala High Court demanding progress in the investigation. The judges should take her plea seriously and look to intervene, as it is evident that significant political forces are standing in the way of a proper investigation in the case. Kerala’s authorities should be hauled up for the delays, and George must be admonished for his disturbing, defamatory remarks. The Kerala government insists that it runs an administration that is more just and fair than those in other parts of the country. It needs to prove that those promises of justice apply to all, even if they are influential.
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