**Kochi: ** After three days of questioning, the Kerala Police on Friday arrested Bishop Franco Mulakkal, who heads the Roman Catholic Diocese in Jalandhar and has been accused of repeatedly raping a nun, police said.
This is the first time in the country that a bishop has been arrested for rape. “Given the stature of the accused, the police left nothing to chance before arresting him,” and a police officer who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The arrest came after the bishop was questioned for three consecutive days at the Crime Branch office near Tripunithura here.
The police will now take Mulakkal, who has maintained that he is innocent, for a medical examination and then produce him before a magistrate in Kottayam as the crime took place in that district.
Mulakkal has been accused of repeatedly sexually abusing the nun between 2014 and 2016. She raised her complaint against the Bishop in June.
The news of his arrest was received with shouting of slogans at a venue where five nuns have been on an indefinite protest along with the public for the past 14 days demanding his arrest.
“We still can’t believe that he has been arrested. We are overjoyed,” exclaimed a nun.
“We are extremely happy. This happened only because we got the support of the public and also the media,” said another nun.
The arrest became a certainty on Friday morning when a police official came to the victim, who is staying at a convent near Kottayam, to take statements for the seventh time since June, when she first raised the issue.
The official took about half hour and passed on the outcome to the investigation officer who was questioning the bishop.
The nuns in Kochi protesting for the past 14 days demanding his arrest secured widespread support from the civil society.
Like in the past two days, on Friday too the bishop accompanied by his counsel and a few priests arrived for the questioning under heavy police escort around 10.45 a.m.
With Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan in the US for medical treatment, Industries Minister E.P. Jayarajan, the de facto Chief Minister, said earlier that the probe was progressing in the right direction.
“The government has always been with the victim and whosoever does a wrong, the wrongdoer will be taken to task,” he said.
Kottayam Superintendent of Police Hari Sankar early on Friday met Inspector General of Police Vijay Sakhre, who is heading the probe team.
Now with the bishop’s arrest, his anticipatory bail plea filed before the Kerala High Court on September 25 has turned infructuous.
An FIR was registered against the bishop and a 114-page detailed statement was taken from the nun and other inmates of the convent, giving an unprecedented jolt to the community.