Kerala HC snubs Church head; says he isn’t king, not above law

Orders an investigation into shady land scam

In a major snub to the head of Syro-Malabar Church who had claimed that Indian courts can’t try him as he is being governed by superior Church canons, the Kerala High Court said he was not king and cannot claim any immunity.

The court ordered a police investigation into a controversial land deal by Cardinal Mar George Alenchery and his associates, in which there is an allegation of corruption.

As per the order by Justice B Kamal Pasha, the proposed investigation shall be conducted along with the ongoing magistrate-level inquiry in this case.

The police investigation shall be conducted against the pastoral head of the Syro-Malabar Church, Cardinal, Mar George Alenchery, the priests, Fr Josh Poduva, Fr  Vadamkumbadan, and the land broker Saju Varghese.

The court observed that there is prima facie evidence against the respondents regarding the breach of trust and conspiracy, as alleged in the petition, which needs detailed investigation.

The court made such severe observations in the context of the strange argument by the counsel for the Cardinal last week that only the Pope can initiate action against him. The HC made it clear that the canon law is insignificant regarding the crimes committed in this country.

The Church is reeling under a major controversy regarding the sale of prime properties which would have eventually resulted in huge tax loss to the government.

“Cardinal is merely a representative of the Church to facilitate the deals and the custodian of the wealth is the Church itself,” said the court. “Even, according to the canon law, the Major Archbishop is not the authority of the Church, thus decisions are made in consultation with various church committees.”

The court made it clear that Cardinal cannot make financial dealings unilaterally and the curia needs to be consulted before making such moves. The canon law is insignificant regarding the crimes committed in this country, the court asserted.

Shine Varghese, the member of the laity approached the court seeking direction to the police to register FIR into the alleged financial irregularities committed while the sale of Church properties in the prime locations at Kochi.

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