Bishop Franco Mulakkal, accused of raping a Kerala nun was on Friday arrested in Kochi after three consecutive days of interrogation by the state police, sources said.
Mulakkal has been accused of repeatedly sexually abusing the nun between 2014 and 2016. Nuns have been protesting in Kochi for the past 14 days demanding his arrest.
The bishop, who belongs to the Roman Catholic Diocese in Jalandhar, Punjab, was questioned for seven hours each on two days starting Wednesday near Kochi at a Crime Branch office.
He was accompanied by his counsel and a few priests as he arrived for the questioning under heavy police escort around 10.45 a.m here on Friday.
With Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan leaving for medical treatment to the US, Industries Minister E P Jayarajan, the de facto Chief Minister, speaking to the media, said that the probe was advancing in the right direction.
“The state government has always been with the victim and whosoever does a wrong — the wrongdoer will be taken to task,” he said.
Kottayam police chief Hari Sankar, who leads the police probe team told the media on Friday that at the moment they were unable to say anything about the arrest.
“It will only be decided after the interrogation is over. It is completely the prerogative of the investigating officer. And there is no need for him to take any permission from anyone. We have already consulted legal experts,” said Hari Sankar .
He also met Inspector General of Police Vijay Sakhre, who is heading the probe team.
For the past two days, K Subash, the deputy superintendent of police, was the investigating officer. He was also the first one to meet the bishop when he questioned him in Jalandhar in August.
Mulakkal was temporarily relieved of his pastoral responsibilities by Pope Francis, the Catholic Bishop Conference of India (CBCI) said Thursday, a decision which was hailed by a group of protesting nuns.
The Pope took the decision in response to Mulakkal’s September 16 letter offering to “step aside temporarily” as the Bishop of the Jalandhar diocese, Kerala Catholic Bishops Council Spokesman Fr Varghese Vallikkattu told PTI.
He wrote the letter after Kerala police summoned him to appear before it for questioning in the case.
The Kerala High Court will be hearing the bishop’s anticipatory bail plea on September 25.
An FIR was registered against the bishop and a 114-page detailed statement was taken from the nun and other inmates of the convent.
(With agency inputs)