'Government Selective In Implementing Court Directions', Kerala HC Prima Facie Observes In Church Dispute Case [Read Order]

"We see that in certain other instances, the State has implemented judgments strongly by deploying large numbers of police personnel and by imposing local restrictions under the Code of Criminal Procedure", observed Justice Devan Ramachandran in the order.

While considering a batch of petitions seeking police assistance in implementing the Supreme Court judgment in the church case involving Jacobite and Malankara Orthodox factions, the High Court of Kerala observed that it had the prima facie suspicion that "Government appears to be implementing directions of Courts selectively, to suiting their interests".

The petitions were seeking police protection to implement the July 2017 verdict of Supreme Court which decided the century old dispute between Jacobite and Orthodox factions in favour of the latter. This meant that the Orthodox faction's claims over several prominent church assets, especially in Piravom area, got upheld.

Responding to the petition, the Advocate General C P Sudhakara Prasad submitted that police intervention may lead to "blood shed, loss of life by immolation or suicide or a complete break down of law and order". Therefore, the political machinery was attempting to have an out of court settlement between the factions.  The Advocate General however expressed unequivocally that the judgments were final and binding.  The Government was exercising caution in view of "peculiar" circumstances in Piravom area, submitted the AG.

The Division Bench of Justices P R Ramachandra Menon and Devan Ramachandran said "we are completely taken aback by the submissions of the learned Advocate General". The Court said it failed to understand how there can be an out of court settlement after the issue was finally adjudicated by the apex court.

The order authored by Justice Devan Ramachandran further observed that "we see that in certain other instances, the State has implemented judgments strongly by deploying large numbers of police personnel and by imposing local restrictions under the Code of Criminal Procedure". In this backdrop, the Court wondered whether the Government was following a selective approach in implementing judgments.

"We certainly fail to understand how in a case of relatively lesser magnitude as these, where admittedly at the best 200 to 400 people are involved, the State should shy away from their obligation to implement orders of the Courts or why the police should helplessly say that they are incapable of executing directions and declarations of the Supreme Court", the Court observed.

The Court felt it was appropriate to give another chance to the AG to "think over" the submissions and posted the matter after ten days.

After the order was dictated, one Senior Advocate, who appeared for one of the contesting factions in the matter, informed the Court that the prima facie observations made by it may not be correct as the Supreme Court itself had permitted parties to enter into settlements and the attempts of the Government cannot be seen as contrary to top court's directions. Responding to this submission, the Court said that the statement filed by the Government itself said that settlement attempts were a failure, despite intervention of CM. The Court also noted that the petitions have been pending for more than 6 months. The State cannot act at its leisure, despite the SC obligating parties to enter into settlement, and drag the matter ad infinetum, said the Court.

The  observations by the Court appear to be a veiled reference to the deployment of police at Sabarimala and declaration of curfew under Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure on the ground of law and order issues there after the SC judgment in Indian Young Lawyers Association Case, which permitted entry of women of all age groups to the temple.

Read Order