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Kerala Kaumudi Online
Saturday, 22 January 2022 2.03 AM IST

The verdict that shocked society

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The verdict of the Kottayam Additional Sessions Court, which acquitted Bishop Franco Mulaikkal in the nun rape case, has come as a shock to those who trust in justice and law. The verdict will bring comfort and joy to the bishop and the church. But on the part of the complainant nun and those who stood by her first and foremost it is an unparalleled tragedy that they went through, the victims can only nod their heads at the helplessness of the legal system. After the verdict was announced, the court saw scenes showing the dominance of the influential and the wealthy over the oppressed.

Bishop Franco was charged with seven counts. The offenses included unjust detention, abuse of a nun using her authority as bishop, unnatural abuse, intimidation, and continuous persecution. The court's finding that the bishop was not guilty of any of these has shocked not only legal circles but even the common sense. Such a verdict, which shocked both the investigating officers and the lawyers, is not at all pleasing to the society.

The bishop was charged with sexually assaulting a nun who served under him as a bishop thirteen times between 2014 and 2016. Although the nun complained that she had been repeatedly sexually abused, the police did not respond at first. The nuns had dropped the streets with the struggle, and arrested the police bishop. Under the leadership of Harishankar, the then Kottayam police chief, a talented team of police officers overcame all pressures to move forward. The nun approached the police with a complaint two years after the crime, but investigators were able to gather strong circumstantial evidence against the accused. The nature of the arguments in court is unknown as it was a secret hearing. The nun complained directly to the police that she had been sexually abused thirteen times. It is very serious that Franco did this crime by abusing his position as bishop. In the Nirbhaya case, the Supreme Court has set clear criteria for considering women's complaints in sexual harassment cases. The fact that the complaint was lodged two years after the incident does not diminish the seriousness of the crime.

Attempts by the natives to save the bishop from falling into the hands of the law at any cost were also noticed by the natives. In any case, their efforts must be considered to be ultimately successful. The government should appeal against the trial court's verdict in the interest of the public. The case should be argued by the most experienced lawyers. The government has a responsibility to uphold the dignity of women in general and the poor nun who has lost a legal battle.

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