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Kerala Church feud: HC pulls up govt for failing to comply with its last order, directs CRPF to take over church if order not implemented by Jan 8

Kerala HC Judge tore into the state govt, saying it cannot be given the discretion to decide whether or not to implement the orders of the court or even choose the time within which the orders are implemented.

Kerala High Court has pulled up the state government led by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, for failing to comply with its last year’s order to take over and grant ownership of the church in Kothamangalam in Ernakulam, Kerala to the Orthodox faction. Issuing interim orders in the matter, the High Court directed that CRPF would take control over the church, should the State fail to comply with its earlier directions in the matter by January 8, 2021.

The court directed the Assistant Solicitor General of India to communicate the court’s order to the DIGP, CRPF Pallipuram for compliance.

Justice PB Suresh Kumar issued the directive on a contempt of court petition filed by the Vicar of the Orthodox faction against the Ernakulam District Collector for not complying with the directives.

State cannot decide whether or not to implement the orders of the court: Kerala HC slams Pinarayi Govt

Justice PB Suresh Kumar, without mincing words, slammed Pinarayi Vijayan Govt for its failure to act on the Court’s 2019 judgment. He observed: “…a large number of litigants approach this Court for relief and a single instance of insolent defiance of an order of the Court is sufficient to shake the confidence reposed by the public in the judicial institutions…”

He tore into the state government, saying that the State cannot be given the discretion to decide whether or not to implement the orders of the court or even, choose the time within which the orders are implemented. Such discretion would go against the supremacy of the rule of law, the judge added.

Feud between Orthodox and Jacobite factions over ownership of church in Kerala

The Church in Kothamangalam in Ernakulam, Kerala, a constituent of the Malankara Syrian Orthodox Church, is currently the epicentre of a bitter feud between two Christian factions- the Jacobite and Orthodox factions of Kerala’s Malankara Church. The century-old dispute between the two Christian factions is over the right to own church property and conduct prayers in churches.

On September 26 last year, the Kerala High Court had directed the police to arrest the supporters of the Jacobite faction who had blocked the police the previous day from implementing the controversial Supreme Court 2017 verdict regarding the Church’s management. The supporters belonging to the Jacobite faction, under the leadership of a few Metropolitan priests, had locked the gates and assembled inside the St Mary’s Church in Ernakulam district’s Piravom in Kerala, barring supporters of the Orthodox faction to formally take over the administration of the church as instructed by the Supreme court in its 2017 verdict.

In a landmark judgement delivered on July 3, 2017, 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 1100 parishes and their churches under the Malankara Church, which were until then controlled by the Jacobite faction should be controlled by the Orthodox faction, as per the 1934 Malankara Church guidelines.

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