Law must prevail

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Law must prevail

Thursday, 13 September 2018 | Pioneer

The Right accuses the Kerala Government of not wanting to anger the Church; the Left charges it with insecurity

Author Aldous Huxley had once famously said, “Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.” This is precisely what we need to remind ourselves in the controversy generated over the alleged rape of a Catholic nun in Kerala by a bishop and the subsequent hierarchical hush-up of the laity as an internal matter of the Church. Sexual aggression is a power crime carried out by those in a position of advantage and it should never be acceptable or ever be interpreted as a religious matter. It is the erosion of the rights of an individual because of the violation by another, irrespective of gender. Criminal offences when alleged, however, need to be judged from a neutral, secular standpoint with the state, police and judicial machinery dispensing what it is mandated to do, protect a citizen’s rights and not bow down to the differential power status of the complainant and accused.

Yes, there may be rot in the clergy, but the state must ensure that this case doesn’t become a sub-set of the equivalence of existing corruption, rather extricate it as an example that can be a landmark for upholding the truth. In fact, the Kerala High Court is proceeding the right way by asking the state police to file an action taken report in investigations to ensure it had followed standard and transparent procedures. It has been over two and a half months since a nun filed a FIR alleging that Bishop Franco Mulakkal of the Jalandhar Diocese had raped her over a dozen times in the last two years. And that he had abused his position to seek illicit relations while being an office-holder of the church and had been intimidating her. He on the other hand says he is being targeted because he allowed disciplinary proceedings against the nun. The complainant says that while she had been subjected to many rounds of interrogations, counter-questioning of the bishop and cross-checking of facts have been tardy, allowing him an upper hand. Policemen say they are taking time because they are having to constantly review and re-examine inconsistencies in the versions of the accused and the complainant. Police, on its part, needs to sift the grain from the chaff rather carefully but not appear to lapse into inertia which in the days of 24X7 TV demanding justice can lead to dangerous flat-panning of its complex role.

At this stage, it cannot risk wrongful arrest and more importantly, misjudge the incongruencies of statements, and water down the case of the aggrieved party. Particularly in this case, where the survivor of a female order — pitted against the might of a male-dominated faith and whose ardent cries have still not got a reaction from Vatican — is subjected to that trope of shaming. To add to woes, political parties have jumped in, the right accusing the Left of not wanting to anger the Church over women’s rights and the Left charging it with insecurity. Truth be told Kerala is India’s most literate State and can look beyond every affiliation and expect the two people concerned to be treated for what they are. Citizens who can only be subservient to the criminal justice system.

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