A Roman Catholic bishop facing rape charges by a nun was likely to be summoned for questioning this week, police probing the case said, amid protests over delay in taking action against him.
Police said there were a 'lot of contradictions' in the statements given by the nun, witnesses and accused Bishop Franco Mulakkal of Jalandhar diocese and that a decision on further action would be taken after clearing all the doubts.
"The Bishop may be summoned to Kerala for interrogation", a senior police officer told PTI.
The notice to the Bishop, urging him to appear before the probe team, was likely to be issued this week itself, police said.
The officer, who did not wish to be named, rejected the charges levelled by protesters seeking justice for the nun that police was helping the accused Bishop. "A free and fair probe is on in the case," he said.
Meanwhile, reports from Kottayam said police have initiated action against independent MLA P C George who had levelled derogatory charges against the victimised nun.
The Kottayam District Police chief directed the head of the Special Investigation Team (SIT) to take the statement of the nun in connection with George's charges against her.
George, however, continued his allegations against the victim and her five fellow nuns, who staged a public protest in Kochi, seeking justice in the case.
Talking to reporters at his residence in Poonjar, George said he had certain doubts on the real victim in the case.
"Who is the real victim? The nun or the Bishop? he asked.
Responding to questions on the action initiated against him by the National Commission for Women for allegedly using abusive language against the nun, George hit out at the women's rights' body, asking whether they would chop off his nose.
He urged the protesting nuns to file a petition in the high court instead of staging a public agitation in the case.
"If the nuns seek legal protection in the case, I will support them. If they are trying to humiliate the entire community of priests, that is unacceptable," George said.
Meanwhile, many political parties and leaders came out in support of the nun.
Leader of the Opposition in the Kerala Assembly Ramesh Chennithala said there were charges that the probe was proceeding very slowly.
"Police have not completed the probe even 76 days after registering the case. It is a serious issue. Investigation should be completed quickly and the culprits should be given punishment as prescribed in the law," he told reporters in Kochi.
He urged the government and police to end the move to 'weaken' the investigation in the case.
"Complete the probe in a time bound manner and convince the people of the facts about the case," he said.
Catholic reformation organisations, including the Kerala Catholic Church Reformation Movement, continued their indefinite protest in Kochi, seeking justice for the nun.
Bharatiya Janata Party and Sangh Parivar outfits in Kerala also expressed solidarity with the agitating nuns and church organisations seeking justice to the victimised nun.
Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh national president Saji Narayanan, Hindu Aikyavedi state general secretary R V Babu and local BJP leaders visited the protest venue and expressed solidarity with the agitation.
The Bishop has been accused of rape and unnatural sex with the complainant multiple times between 2014 and 2016.
A special team probing the case has said that according to preliminary investigations, Bishop Franco abused his position and repeatedly raped the nun.
Meanwhile, the Kerala high court on Monday directed the state government to inform it about the steps taken by the special investigation team of the Kerala Police probing the case.
A division bench also sought to know the steps taken by the government to ensure the safety and security of the nun allegedly victimised by Mulakkal and her fellow nuns supporting her in her fight.
The bench, comprising Chief Justice Hrishikesh Roy and Justice A K Jayansankaran Nambiar, wanted to know whether the Bishop was questioned by the team in Jalandhar when it went there about a month ago and directed the police to inform it of the steps taken by it after that.
Considering a plea filed by George Joseph K of the Kerala Catholic Church Reformation Movement seeking a court-monitored probe into the case, the court asked why no steps have been taken to ensure the nun's safety and security.
"Law is above all other things and it will take its own course," the court said and posted the case to Thursday for further hearing.
In his petition, Joseph alleged that the investigation team was undergoing extreme pressure which could derail the case.
The petitioner submitted that despite the team finding substance in the victim's claim, there was no move to push the investigation forward.
The petitioner alleged that the allegations levelled against the seniormost functionary of the Catholic Church reveals "the dark underbelly of the closed order".
"Since the outbreak of the revelations, there have been serious efforts to undermine the investigation by threats, inducements and coercion of various witnesses as revealed from the news reports," the petitioner submitted.
When a petition seeking speedy investigation in the case came up before the court last month, the special investigation team had submitted that as per the initial probe of the police, the bishop abused his position and repeatedly raped the nun from Kerala.
Deputy Superintendent of Police, Kottayam, K Subhash had informed the court that the investigation was proceeding effectively and impartially.
After the submission by the officer, the court had disposed of the petition with a direction to the police to investigate the case properly.