Kerala HC DB Recuses From Hearing Church Dispute Case

Kerala HC DB Recuses From Hearing Church Dispute Case

The Division Bench of Justices P R Ramachandra Menon and Devan Ramachandran has recused from hearing the petition concerning the dispute between Jacobite and Orthodox factions.

This was after an application was moved seeking the recusal of Justice Devan from the matter, on the ground that he had appeared as counsel for one of the parties involved in the case in earlier proceedings before the High Court.

The application filed by one Shiju P.Kunjumon through Advocate Mathews Nedumpara stated that in 2015,Justice Devan had appeared in a writ petition filed regarding the dispute. Apprehending "sub-conscious bias", the application prayed that "Justice Devan Ramachandran be graciously pleased to recuse himself from hearing the petition".

The DB was dealing with a petition 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 churches, especially the iconic Piravom church, got upheld.

On November 28, the DB had criticised the stand of the government that mediated settlement of dispute between the factions should be explored, instead of enforcement of judgment with police aid.Advocate General C P Sudhakara Prasad had submitted that police intervention may lead to "bloodshed, loss of life by immolation or suicide or a complete break down of law and order".

The Court wondered how could the government seek settlement of a dispute, which has been decided once and for all by the apex court. " We are taken aback by the submissions of the Advocate General", said Justice Devan Ramachandran in the order.

The Court then issued an order, directing the State to rethink it's stand and inform the court.

The DB order authored by Justice Devan Ramachandran had observed "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  observations by the Court were widley understood as veiled references 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.

Yesterday, the police had attempted to enter Piravam church to implement the judgment. But the attempt was aborted after agitated protests by believers.