New Delhi: Former Bishop Franco Mulakkal, the accused in the Kerala nun abuse case, was on Friday night arrested by the state police on the charges of rape. Franco Mulakkal will be produced before the magistrate within 24 hours of his arrest, TV reports said. Mulakkal has been accused of repeatedly sexually abusing the nun between 2014 and 2016.

Franco Mulakkal was questioned on Friday for the third consecutive day by the Kerala police even as the protests demanding his arrest grew. The bishop, who belongs to the Roman Catholic Diocese in Jalandhar, Punjab, has been questioned for seven hours each on two days starting Wednesday near here at a Crime Branch office.

Just a day before, the Vatican relieved Bishop Franco Mulakkal of his pastoral duties in Diocese of Jalandhar as his request. Franco Mulakkal had earlier stepped down saying he was likely to be called for further clarifications by investigating officer in Kerala in connection with the case.

In a statement, the Jalandhar Diocese said that Franco Mulakkal stepped down as he required time to fight his case. The administration said that Bishop Mulakkal had written to the Pope on September 16 and expressed his “desire to step down temporarily from the responsibilities of the diocese”.

“Bishop Mulakkal requires to spend more time to fight his case, travel to Kerala and expressed willingness to absolve himself from responsibilities of the diocese temporarily and has handed over a letter to the representative of the Pope, seeking permission for the same,” Diocese of Jalandhar said, news agency ANI tweeted.

The development came hours after the Kerala nun rape case was brought to the notice of the Vatican by the church representative from India.