Ensure safety of the survivor, companions, witnesses in the Franco Mulakkal case: Activists

Sisters In Solidarity, group of feminist lawyers, and activists write to the Church leadership to stand with the survivor in her quest for justice

Franco Mulakkal case

A group of feminist lawyers and activists, named the Sisters in Solidarity (SIS), have expressed “deep shock, disappointment and disbelief at the ‘not guilty’ verdict  awarded to Franco Mulakkal, Bishop of Jalandhar acquitting him on grounds of lack of  evidence in the rape case filed against him.” They have written to Church leaders including:

  • Bishop Agnelo Gracias, Apostolic Administrator, Jalandhar Diocese, Jalandhar

  • Sr. Anit Kuvalloor, Superior General, Missionaries of Jesus, Jalandhar

  • Rev. Sr. Litty FCC, Superior General,  Franciscan Clarist Congregation, Aluva

  • Sr. Alphonsa Abraham FCC, Provincial Superior, Nirmala Province, Vijayawada

  • Most Rev. Anil Joseph Thomas Couto, Metropolitan Archbishop of Delhi Chairman, CBCI Office for Clergy, Religious

  • Fr. Gratian Carlo SJ, Secretary, CBCI Office and

  • Oswald Cardinal Gracias, Archbishop of Bombay, Mumbai, CBCI President for Clergy and Religious

They have appealed to the Church and Congregational authorities to “ensure safety and security of  the survivor, companions and witnesses in the Franco Mulakkal criminal case.”  

The Franco Mulakkal case

On Friday, January 14m 2022, a Kerala court acquitted Franco Mulakkal (57), the former bishop Jalandhar who is accused of raping a nun in a Kottayam district convent, multiple times between 2014 and 2016. He was acquitted citing lack of evidence in a case that was registered by police in Kottayam in June 2018. A Special Investigation Team (SIT) probed the case, arrested the Bishop in September 2018 and charged him with wrongful confinement, rape, unnatural sex and criminal intimidation. His trial started in November 2019 and concluded on January 10, 2022, when an additional district and sessions court acquitted the Bishop stating the prosecution failed to produce evidence against him. His supporters celebrated the verdict that sent shockwaves across the country.

According to news reports, the Nuns of the Kuravilangad Convent in Kottayam, who have always been supporting their colleague, the survivor, said the verdict will be challenged. National Commission for Women (NCW) chairperson Rekha Sharma and others have extended support to the survivor. According to news reports, the nuns said they will continue to stay in the convent and continue their fight “till our sister gets justice. Police and prosecution showed justice to us but we did not get the expected justice from the judiciary.” 

The News Minute quoted Sandhya Raju, a lawyer who assisted the prosecution as saying, “The entire attempt was made to look at the sexual assault survivor in a cold and mechanical manner. There was a consistent effort to psychologically put her down.” 

Pained to see how insensitively a daughter of the Church is disowned

Now the activists’ letter also highlights that statements coming from some sections of the local community and media, claiming this verdict as a “major victory for the Church” is “very disturbing”. They ask, “Is the survivor nun not part of  the same Church? We are pained to see how insensitively a daughter of the Church is disowned,  discredited and devalued by the members of the ecclesiastical community,” state the signatories who know the survivor and have been with her in her fight for justice. They say that she and her companions have “already suffered much within the Church having been alienated from their mission and ostracised by the community. Even after she pleaded for help to the Church authorities at various levels, not one of them ever responded to her in any manner  to understand the truth.” 

They recalled that once the nun who is the rape survivor filed the case against Franco Mulakkal who is also the patron of the survivor’s congregation, “she was immediately stripped of her responsibilities as a religious” and the Missionaries of Jesus (MJ) community of the St. Francis Mission Home “was split into two groups. Since then, “the survivor and her companions have experienced harassment and  hostility from the supporters of the accused” state the activists adding that after this verdict, “they have become even more  vulnerable and are in danger of further victimisation.”

They also added that they are “deeply concerned about the safety of Sr. Lissy Vadakkel FCC, a prime witness, who is also ostracised by her congregation at Jyothi Bhavan, Muvattupuzha and is under police protection. Her frail health and isolation from the rest of the community is a matter of grave concern”.  

The activists have urged the Church, the MJ and FCC leadership to be “sensitive to the survivor and her  supporters to ensure their safety and dignity in this crucial time, in the spirit of justice, compassion and care modelled by Jesus. Immediate steps need to be taken to guarantee their security and ensure them freedom from any kind of harassment. Considering the fact that there are related cases still under investigation, they should not be  shifted out of their present residence where they are provided with full protection by the  concerned police stations.”

The letter, which has been marked to the leaders of the Catholic church in India may be read here:



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