Members of the Piravom church in Ernakulam refused to hand over the administration of the church to the Orthodox faction despite the SC order to implement its verdict.

Fourth Kerala HC Bench refuses to hear Piravom church case in Orthodox-Jacobite feud
news Church Tuesday, January 29, 2019 - 18:21

A Division Bench of Kerala High Court on Tuesday recused itself from hearing the petition regarding the management of the Piravom St Mary’s Church. On Tuesday, the bench headed by Justice K Harilal and Justice Annie John withdrew from the case, albeit without citing any reason. This is the fourth bench to withdraw from the case involving the dispute over the church.

The Piravom Church case relates to the ongoing feud between the Orthodox and Jacobite faction in the wake of the Supreme Court’s verdict on July 3, stating that 1,100 parishes and their churches under the Malankara Church should be controlled by the Orthodox faction, according to the 1934 Malankara Church guidelines.

However, the Jacobite members of the St Mary’s Jacobite Syrian Cathedral in Piravom, Ernakulam, refused to hand over the administration of the church to the Orthodox faction. Following this, the Orthodox faction had approached the Kerala High Court to implement the Supreme Court judgement.

On December 11, the first time the case came up for hearing, a division bench of the Kerala High Court, comprising Justice PR Ramachandra Menon and Justice Devan Ramachandran, refused to hear the petition. This came after a petitioner pointed out that Justice Devan Ramachandran had earlier appeared as a lawyer in the dispute.

After this, the case came up for hearing before a bench led by Justice Chitambaresh and Justice Narayana Pisharadi. However, an advocate pointed out that Justice Chitambaresh, too, had appeared in the case, following which the bench recused from the case. When the Piravom church case came up for hearing the third time, the bench led by CK Abdul Raheem and TV Anilkumar, too, refused to hear the case for a similar reason.

Incidentally, in July 2016, Justice K Harilal, while hearing a case, referred to referred to a 1976 Government Order that all church cases should be tried and disposed of by First Additional District Court, Ernakulam, in order to avoid conflicting judgement and orders. 

Father Johns Abraham Konattu, PRO of Malankara Orthodox Church, told TNM, “We do not yet why the fourth bench withdrew from the case. However, the Kerala High Court will have to set up another bench. If they fail to do so, we will approach the Supreme Court. In fact, when we filed a contempt of court petition at the Supreme Court in November, it asked us to come back if the Kerala High Court has not found a solution in three months. This period will come to an end on February 18.

On December 10, 2018, the St Mary’s Jacobite Syrian Cathedral in Piravom, Ernakulam, had witnessed a tense stand-off as police had to intervene when parishioners refused to give the Orthodox faction control of the church. Some women even climbed atop the church building and threatened to jump.

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