Collecting evidence in an old crime is "painstaking", the Kerala High Court said today on the police delay in arresting Jalandhar Bishop Franco Mulakkal, who has been accused of raping a nun for nearly two years. "It is at the investigating officer's discretion to decide when to arrest (the accused), depending on the loopholes in the case," the court said, refusing to order the Bishop's arrest amid protests by a group of nuns and others who accuse the police of a go-slow on the case.
The danger in rushing through the investigation is that it will result in a "shoddy job", the court said.
The police had told the court that the investigation spans five states and seven districts of Kerala, and over 100 witnesses were questioned in 45 days.
Sandhya Raju -- the counsel for the nun -- had earlier alleged before the bench that the victim's family members were being discouraged from pursuing the case through threats as well as monetary offers.
The state has witnessed several protests over the delay in police action against the bishop, accused by the nun of raping her as many as 13 times between May 2014 and September 2016. A high-level police meet was held on Tuesday to decide if Bishop Mulakkal should be taken into custody.
The court rejected a second plea seeking CBI custody of the accused. "Are you interested in arrest or conviction? Show at least some patience in comparison to the patience that the nun has shown," it said.
The rape case is only the latest in a string of controversies to plague the Church in Kerala over the last few months. Matters came to a head when Kerala legislator PC George last week called the nun a "prostitute" and said she "enjoyed it twelve times and termed it as rape on the thirteenth". He later expressed regret for using the derogatory word, but reaffirmed the rest of the remarks made in the press conference.
The Pinarayi Vijayan government, however, has expressed its support for the woman's family. "They needn't be concerned. We'll take the right decision at the right time. Police will book the culprits with the support of evidence. Investigation is on the right path. No one should try to outrage the modesty of a woman," news agency ANI quoted state minister EP Jayarajan as saying.
The High Court has fixed September 24 as the next day of hearing.
With inputs from agencies