The probe was announced following High Court directions, that asked the state to find if the controversial land dealings of the church involved any poramboke land or government land.

George AlencherryWikimedia commons / CC BY-SA 4.0
news Probe Wednesday, September 22, 2021 - 10:54

The Kerala government has formed a seven-member enquiry team to probe the cases related to controversial land deals of Ernakulam-Angamaly Archdiocese, involving Syro-Malabar Church head Cardinal George Alencherry. The probe was ordered following a Kerala High Court direction on August 12, that asked the state government to inquire if any government land or ‘poramboke’ land has been included in the controversial land dealings of the church. According to reports, the case pertains to the sale of 60 cents of land by the Ernakulam Angamaly Archdiocese in Thrikkakara. A Times of India report states that the petitioner who moved court has alleged that the sale deed was made without getting any payment. The petitioner has also alleged that no church committees were aware about the deal.

Assistant Commissioner of the Revenue Department, Beena P Anand, will head the team to enquire into the settlement deed with respect to any poramboke land and the action or inaction of any officials concerned, the government said in its September 20 order. On August 12, the Kerala High Court had held that Cardinal Alencherry must stand trial in connection with the cases related to controversial land deals of the Archdiocese. Justice P Somarajan had dismissed pleas filed by Alencherry, challenging the Ernakulam Sessions Court verdict that he must face trial in connection with the cases registered against him in connection with alienation of alleged church properties.

"The Hon'ble High Court...directed the Government to conduct an investigation into the matter through its investigation agencies, so as to satisfy itself whether the Settlement Deed of the year 2007 was executed with respect to any Government land or Poramboke land and also about no action/inaction on the part of the concerned officials…(sic)," the order, issued by R Thara Devi, the Additional Secretary of the Revenue Department, read. The order asked the probe team to submit the enquiry report with their findings and recommendations to the government on an urgent basis.

Dismissing the pleas, the court had questioned the legitimacy of a property alienated by the church in the process. The Cardinal had sought quashing of all proceedings initiated against him by the Judicial First Class Magistrate, Kakkanad, on a complaint by Joshy Varghese alleging commission of offences under various sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), including section 120B (Criminal Conspiracy).

He had argued that the Bishop of the Archdiocese will have full authority over all spiritual and temporal affairs of the church, that they are governed by Canon law and their constitution (byelaw) even over alienation of immovable properties and the parishioners will not have any authority or locus standi to challenge any such alienation and transfer.

Examining all land deal cases, the court had observed suppression of material facts on the title and interest over a church property in Aluva taluk and ordered the government to conduct a probe to satisfy itself whether the 2007 settlement deed of that property was executed with respect to any government land and whether it was a government land at any point of time. The court had observed that the September 21, 2007 settlement deed prima facie appears to be executed to perpetuate encroachment over the government land and to manipulate title over it.

George Alencherry is also accused in multiple cases pertaining to controversial land deals, which according to complainants in the laity, has led to losses worth several crore to the church.

Read: 

Kerala police register case against Cardinal George Alencherry in land deal

The right turn by a section of Kerala’s Catholic church is sheer opportunism

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