Supreme Court refuse to quash criminal proceedings against Major Archbishop of Syro-Malabar Church in land scam case
The Supreme Court on Friday dismissed a Special Leave Petition filed by Cardinal George Alencherry, the Major Archbishop of Syro-Malabar Church, seeking to quash the criminal cases registered against him over alleged irregularities in the sale of properties belonging to the Ernakulam-Angamaly Archdiocese.
The Apex Court, while expressing displeasure towards the subsequent orders passed by the Kerala High Court in Alencherry’s petition, observed that it was upholding the August, 2021 verdict of the High Court, albeit with certain observations and directions.
The top court of the country further disposed of the SLPs filed by the Eparchy of Bathery and the Catholic Diocese of Thamarassery against the general observations made by the High Court that Bishops had no power to alienate Church assets.
Justice Bela Trivedi further quashed the subsequent orders passed after the August, 2021 judgment. A detailed copy of the judgment is awaited.
Earlier in January, the Bench of Justice Dinesh Maheshwari and Justice Bela Trivedi had reserved its verdict in the case.
The top court of the country had questioned the approach of the Single-Judge Bench of the High Court in continuing to issue further directions in the matter, after dismissal of the Cardinal’s petition filed under Section 482 CrPC.
The High Court had issued follow-up directions to the State in 2022 to identify public properties encroached by religious trusts. The Single-Judge Bench had also recommended the Central government to bring a uniform law to regulate religious trusts.
The dispute pertained to the execution of various sale deeds in respect of properties held by the Syro Malabar Church, a religious congregation allegedly without compliance with the requirements as per the by-laws of the Church, causing heavy financial losses to the Church and its parishioners.
A case was registered against Cardinal Alencherry under Section 120 B, 406, 409, 418, 420, 423, 465, 467, 468 and 34 of IPC for cheating, criminal breach of trust, forgery, criminal conspiracy.
It was alleged the Cardinal entered into a criminal conspiracy with other people to dispose of valuable properties of the Church at throwaway prices.