A division bench of the Kerala High Court provided relief to the Cardinal of Syro-Malabar Catholic Church a second time, when on Tuesday it quashed an FIR registered against him and three others in an alleged land scam case.
On March 16, the division bench had stayed a March 6 order of a single bench of the high court directing a police probe against him and three others -- two priests and a middleman -- for allegedly effecting a land deal that caused a loss of crores of rupees to the Church in Kochi.
The court, however, added that if the police get fresh evidence, they can proceed with the probe.
The Ernakulam archdiocese in 2016 had sold a three-acre piece of land in Kochi to repay a Rs 60-crore bank loan it had earlier taken to construct a medical college.
The agent appointed by the Church to facilitate the deal had estimated the value of the land at Rs 27.30 crore, but priests and locals claimed that the property's real value was at least Rs 80 crore.
Unprecedented allegations had rocked the Church and had driven a wedge between the priests and the laity. A section of the people were against the Cardinal and had even demanded that he step down from the post, as the issue had hurt the Church.
With Tuesday's order, the case for all practical purposes is a closed chapter, giving a huge relief to the Cardinal, as this was the first time in the history of a state that a criminal case was registered against the supreme head of a Church.
However, the petitioner in the case said it is contemplating to move the apex court against the latest court verdict.