Catholic Diocese Urges Supreme Court To Stay Kerala High Court Directions In Case Against Cardinal Alencherry
Taking objection to the recent order passed by the Kerala High Court which observed that religious organizations were encroaching public land, the Catholic Diocese of Bathery on Monday urged the Supreme Court to stay the same, in which directions were issued to the government to act against public encroachments made by religious and charitable trusts.
A single bench of the High Court had passed the directions on October 27 while monitoring the investigation of land scam allegations against Cardinal George Alencherry, the Major Archbishop of Syro-Malabar Church. The bench also requested the Central Government to consider framing a law to regulate religious organisations. Earlier, while refusing to quash the criminal cases against the Cardinal in 2021, the single bench of Justice P Somarajan had observed that Bishops have no power to alienate church assets. Challenging such findings, few other dioceses approached the Supreme Court.
On Monday (December 5), Senior Advocate Chander Uday Singh, appearing for the Eparchy of Bathery, submitted before a bench comprising Justices Dinesh Maheshwari and Hrishikesh Roy that the single judge of the High Court was issuing directions in a disposed of matter.
"The judge continues to monitor the investigation. And these directions of continuing mandamus are passed in a disposed of matter. In the disposed of Section 482 matter another order is passed on the 27th October directing the State Government to take over all lands under bona vacantia and requesting the Central Government to frame a central law to regulate all charities all over India".
"What do you want?", the bench asked.
"We are praying for stay", replied Singh.
The bench said that it has noted the fact that the single bench has passed the directions in a disposed of matter while the issue was sub-judice in the Supreme Court.
"We have taken note of it, we have also seen it. We have seen that the bench has passed the order when the matter is sub judice in a practically disposed of matter", Justice Maheshwari said. However, the bench expressed difficulty in hearing the matter on Monday due to paucity of time. Pursuant to a request made by Singh for early hearing, the bench posted the matter next week.
The Eparchy of Bathery and the Catholic Diocese of Thamarassery have filed the Special Leave Petitions challenging the remarks made by a single judge bench of the Kerala High Court in the judgment delivered in August 2021 which refused to quash the criminal cases against Cardinal Mar George Alencherry over the sale of properties belonging to Ernakulam-Angamalay Archdiocese.
The Kerala High Court, in its judgment delivered on August 12, 2021, observed that "the religious supremacy vested with the Bishop or apostolic succession should be understood confined to religious matters both temporal and spiritual governed by ecclesiastical law viz., the Canon law". A single bench of Justice P Somarajan observed that these powers of the Bishop will not include the right to alienate the property vested in the endowement.
The Dioceses have taken objection to these remarks made by the High Court and have contended that they are based on an erroneous understanding of the Canon Law and argued that the erroneous remarks made by the High Court will adversely affect all Dioceses.
Case : Eparchy of Bathery vs. State of Kerala and Ors - SLP(Crl) No. 1487-1493/2022,Catholic Diocese of Thamarassery vs. State of Kerala and Ors. - Diary No. 7364/2022