The Kerala high court on Monday granted conditional bail to Roman Catholic Bishop Franco Mulakkal, three weeks after he was arrested over allegations of repeatedly raping and sexually assaulting a nun.
Granting the bail, Justice Raja Vijayaraghavan directed the accused to leave Kerala and surrender his passport.
However, he has been directed to appear before the probe officer once in two weeks on Saturdays.
This condition would be applicable till a charge sheet is filed in the case.
Earlier on October 3, the high court had dismissed the bail plea of the clergyman while accepting the prosecution argument that the accused, holding a high position in the society, would try to influence witnesses in the case, if given bail.
The 54-year-old bishop, currently lodged in a sub-jail in Pala in Kottayam district, moved the high court again after a magistrate court extended his judicial remand.
Police opposed the bail application of Mulakkal, saying investigation was still on in the case.
The court, however, granted him conditional bail considering the fact that investigation in the case was almost over.
Fellow nuns of the victimised nun, who had staged public protest in Kochi seeking the bishop's arrest, expressed concern over the "speedy bail" of the accused, saying Bishop Mulakkal was very powerful who can influence the witnesses in the case even if he stays outside the state.
They said there was a security threat for them and there was no guarantee that they would be alive tomorrow.
Welcoming the decision, a Jalandhar diocese spokesperson said, "Thanks to the God."
Without elaborating, he said the case was under the consideration of the court and "let the court decide".
The bishop was arrested on September 21 after intense interrogation over the last three days.
The Vatican had relieved him "temporarily" of all pastoral responsibilities as the bishop of the Jalandhar diocese of the Missionaries of Jesus congregation to which the alleged victim also belongs.
The nun had accused the clergyman of repeatedly raping and having unnatural sex with her between 2014 and 2016.
In her complaint to the Kottayam Police in June, the nun had alleged that Bishop Mulakkal raped her at a guest house in Kuravilangad in May 2014 and later sexually exploited her on several occasions.
The nun said she had to approach the police as church authorities did not act on her repeated complaints against the clergyman.
However, Mulakkal has denied the charges as "baseless and concocted," insisting she levelled those as the Catholic order had rejected her demand for favours.