National Commission for Women chairperson Rekha Sharma on Friday said she was shocked to hear acquittal of Kerala nun rape case accused Franco Mullakal and promised to support the victim and fellow nuns.
“Shocked at the judgment of the district sessions court. The victim must go to the high court. The NCW is with her in her fight for justice,” she tweeted after the verdict.
Kerala women commission chairperson P Sathi Devi also expressed concern over the verdict. “We are with suffering nuns. We will help them,” she said.
While political parties are guarded in their reaction, activists and others expressed their shock.
“The verdict is really painful. But it is not over. In Sister Abhaya murder case it took 28 years for long arms of the law to punish offenders,” said Sister Lucy Kalapura who was expelled from Franciscan Clarist Congregation for openly supporting nuns who staged a sit-in in 2018 in Kochi seeking the arrest of Mullakal. She said the verdict will give a wrong message to those who want to come out against such atrocities.
Former SP of Kottayam S Hari Shankar, who supervised the investigation, said the verdict will be unprecedented in Indian judiciary. “We can look at the verdict only with shock. There have been a lot of corroborate evidences and enough witnesses. There were medical evidences as well. We have to check what kind of message this verdict is giving to the society as a whole,” he said.
Activist Joemon Puhtanpurakkal, who fought more than 25 years to ensure justice for Sister Abhaya, who was found murdered in a well of the convent, said it was only a temporary setback and nuns should continue their fight for justice.
State fisheries minister Saji Cherian, also hailing from Kottayam, said the government will take a decision after taking legal opinion.
But a senior lawyer with defence team, CS Ajayan, said the verdict was a natural outcome. “You can raise charges easily but you will have to corroborate these with evidences. The prosecution failed to come up with proofs to substantiate its charges.”
Catholic Youth Forum leader Kennedy K said truth prevailed with the verdict.