Highway to jail: Kerala HC directs filing of criminal case against top Christian priest over shady land deals

Cardinal George Alencherry, the head of Syro-Malabar Catholic Church has found himself in big trouble after the Kerala High Court directed the police to file a criminal complaint against him and three others on Tuesday. But since then, he has incidentally found support in form of four bishops who are part of his Church’s permanent Synod.

This has also been backed by the Church’s spokesperson Jimmy Poochakkattu, who found nothing wrong in Synod’s intervention. As per him, the Cardinal is the head of the Synod hence he can seek its support.

The Kerala High Court on Tuesday had observed that a prima facie case indicated criminal conspiracy, breach of trust and criminal misappropriation when it comes to the said land deals. These observations were made while hearing a case filed by Shine Varghese a follower of the archdiocese.

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Apart from Alencherry, the case is supposed to be filed against two priests Joshy Puthuva, Sebastian Vadakkumpadan and Saju Varghese Kunnel, a real estate broker involved in the land deals.

This case pertains to the Cardinal been accused of favouring a middleman who sold Church land worth 27 crores for a price of 13 crores. In spite of selling below its market value, the Church had received only 9.3 crores. In his defence, the Cardinal had claimed that the balance had remained unpaid due to demonetisation. In total, reports have speculated that the church has lost about 93 crores.

Earlier while the Kerala High Court was hearing the matter, the Cardinal had decided to brazen things out by claiming that only the Pope could punish him under Canon law. The High Court promptly retorted that the Pope had no jurisdiction in India.

During Tuesday’s hearing, Alencherry’s counsel had argued that he being the supreme authority of the diocese could do whatever he wanted with the property. The court though disagreed and asserted that the Cardinal is merely the custodian of the properties.

It isn’t the only time in recent days when the church came in support of those accused in serious matters. The infamous St. Joseph’s Hospice which has been accused of harvesting the bones and organs of the elderly had found a backer in the Catholic church and Tamil Nadu Bishops’ Council. After organised a protest against action on Hospices, they had also asked the priests to mobilise the parishioners in large numbers to participate in it.

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