The petition claimed that “judges, like Caesar’s wife, must be above suspicion”, and pointed out that one of the judges had earlier appeared as a lawyer in the case.

Kerala HC bench declines to hear Piravom Church matter due to conflict of interest
news Law Tuesday, December 11, 2018 - 19:03

A division bench of the Kerala High Court comprising of Justice PR Ramachandra Menon and Justice Devan Ramachandran refused to hear a petition regarding the management of the embattled Piravom Church, which is currently in the middle of a heated dispute regarding whether church management should be undertaken by the Jacobite or the Orthodox faction of the Malankara Church.

The bench decided to do so after the filing of a petition by 23-year-old Shiju P Kunjumon. The petition invoked “Caesar’s wife” and landmark judgements from around the world to establish that “judges, like Caesar’s wife, must be above suspicion”, and pointed out that Justice Devan Ramachandran had earlier appeared as a lawyer in the dispute regarding the administration of churches under the Malankara Church. Having appeared as a lawyer in the matter of Malankara Church administration before, the petition appealed to legal precedent and principles of justice in stating that Justice Devan Ramachandran must recuse himself from hearing the case.

Upon receiving this petition, both Justice Devan Ramachandran and Justice PR Ramachandra Menon decided not to hear the case, and have placed the matter before the Chief Justice of Kerala, who will post the case to the appropriate divisional bench.

In a controversial landmark judgement delivered back on July 3, the Supreme Court had ruled on a centuries-old dispute between Jacobite and Orthodox factions of Kerala’s Malankara Church. The SC had ruled that 1,100 parishes and their churches under the Malankara Church should be controlled by the Orthodox faction, as per the 1934 Malankara Church guidelines. However, of the families within the Piravom Church, sources tell TNM, 80% belong to the Jacobite faction, while only 20% belong to the Orthodox faction.

Despite the SC ruling handing over administration of these churches to the Orthodox faction, in many churches, including the Piravom Valiyapalli and St Mary’s Church, Kattichara, Orthodox faction clergy members have been blocked from entering and carrying out their duties by protesting Jacobite faction members. On Monday, the Piravom Church witnessed high drama after police attempted to accompany Orthodox clergymen into the church, and Jacobite faction members camped inside the church threatened to commit suicide if they proceeded, forcing the police to cancel their operation.

 

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