Bishop Franco Mulakkal, who has been accused of repeated rape and sexual assault by a nun, was grilled by the Kerala police for seven hours on Wednesday and the questioning will continue on Thursday, officials said.
Deputy Superintendent of Police K Subhash, who heads the Special Investigation Team, questioned the 54-year-old clergyman at the crime branch office.
Mulakkal had recently relinquished his administrative responsibilities as the Bishop of the Jalandhar diocese of the Missionaries of Jesus congregation.
“The first phase of interrogation is over. He has been asked to be present tomorrow morning at 11 am for continued interrogation. He has agreed to it,” Kottayam Superintendent of police Hari Sankar said after the marathon questioning of the priest.
Sankar, who joined Subhash during the questioning, said the clergyman was cooperating with the investigation.
When asked about the “contradictions” in the statements of the alleged victim, the witnesses and Mulakkal, as claimed by police earlier, Sankar said,” That’s the purpose of the interrogation. The interrogation is not over. We will reflect on it after it is over.”
Earlier in the day, Mulakkal, who moved the Kerala high court for anticipatory bail on Tuesday, arrived at the office of the crime branch in a private car at 10:55 am, five minutes before his scheduled appearance.
Citing convention, legal experts said the priest is unlikely to be arrested before September 25 when his anticipatory bail plea will come up for resumed hearing in the high court. However, there is no legal bar on his arrest.
The nun has accused the senior Catholic priest of sexually assaulting her repeatedly between 2014 and 2016.
The clergyman has claimed allegations against him were a “cooked up story to wreak vengeance” for the actions taken by him on various complaints received against the nun.
Claiming innocence, the bishop has said the complaint was “nothing but a fictional story”.
As the bishop joined the probe, the protest by various Catholic reform organisations and a group of nuns seeking his arrest entered the 12th day Wednesday.
The agitation at Vanchi Square is a spontaneous expression of outrage by these groups over the alleged assault of the nun.
The protest venue, in the heart of the city close to the high court, is alive through the day with a steady stream of people from different fields, including activists and churchgoers, making a stopover to express their solidarity with the alleged victim.
A sister of the rape survivor, undertaking a protest fast, was hospitalised Wednesday after her condition deteriorated. A march was taken out to the office of Inspector General of Police seeking the arrest of the bishop.