Kerala HC Directs Govt. Take Control Of Marthoman Church[Read Order]
The Kerala High Court on Tuesday directed the state government to remove all persons who had been squatting in and outside the Marthoman Cheriyapalli (Church) in Kothamangalam area of Kerala and to take over its precincts and all its movables.
The order passed by Justice PB Suresh Kumar follows the order of the Supreme Court in KS Varghese v. St. Peter's & Paul's Syrian Orthodox Church & Ors., (2017) 15 SCC 333, whereby it had held that prayer services at churches should be performed in consonance with the 1934 Malankara Church Constitution and guidelines. It had thereby granted control of over a thousand parishes and their churches to the Orthodox faction.
The followers of rival Jacobite Christian faith had been allegedly interfering with the execution of the Apex Court's order by not letting those belonging to the Orthodox faction to enter the church or to take its possession. They allegedly closed the church gates from inside, forcing the Orthodox faction priests to wait outside.
Aggrieved by the same, Orthodox faction priest Thomas Paul Ramban had approached the high court.
Noting that the Constitution fastens on all authorities a non-negotiable obligation to enforce orders of the court, Justice Suresh Kumar directed the Ernakulam district collector to use force to remove the protesters and take over the church in Kothamangalam.
"The first respondent shall, thereafter, take over the Church, its precincts and all its movables after removing all persons squatting inside the Church premises and its compound and shall make arrangements as he considers proper for looking after the Church, its precincts and movables," the court directed.
Apart from this, the court also issued following directions:
- The first respondent shall ensure public order, peace and tranquility in the locality of the Church forthwith, if necessary, by deploying the provisions of Chapter X of the Code of Criminal Procedure.
- When the first respondent is satisfied thereafter that the situation prevailing in the area is conducive so as to enable the petitioner, who is the Vicar of the Church, to conduct religious ceremonies in the Church, its precincts and movables shall be handed over to the petitioner for management.
- In the meanwhile, if the body of any parishioner is to be buried, there shall be no impediment for the same and the religious services required for the same shall be rendered by the petitioner.
- Once the Church and its precincts are handed over to the petitioner, he shall be extended necessary police aid for conducting religious ceremonies in the Church.
- If any person creates any law and order situation or obstructs the religious services in the Church, the Police shall forthwith arrest and remove him.
- Necessary contingent of Police shall remain in the premises of the Church until peace and harmony is attained and the petitioner would be in a position to manage the affairs of the Church.
The court also observed that if the authorities began to not implement a court's order for the reason that a certain group of persons was resisting its implementation, no order of any court will ever be enforced, given the present day social environment where one could easily arrange people to cause obstructions.
"Rule of law is one of the basic features of our Constitution which pervade the whole constitutional fabric…The constitution fastens on all authorities a non-negotiable obligation to enforce orders of the court, as otherwise, rule of law cannot be preserved. Judicial remedies are provided to the stakeholders before and after an order is rendered. Once the stakeholders exhaust their remedies in respect of an order, the same has to be enforced in its letter and spirit to uphold the majesty of law. In our constitutional fabric, the authorities who are bound to comply with the orders have no discretion whether or not to abide by the decision of the court, whatever be the reasons, for, the order is presumed to have been issued consciously, having regard not only to the consequences of the decision but also the various hurdles in the process of its implementation," the court remarked.
Picture Courtesy: The Hindu