Kochi: The Kerala police on Monday registered a case against cardinal George Alencherry, major archbishop of the Syro-Malabar church and head of the archdiocese of Ernakulam-Angamaly and three others, in connection with a land deal that reportedly brought about financial losses to the church.
The case has been registered under IPC Section 120(B) (criminal conspiracy), 402 (wrongful assembly), 406 (criminal breach of trust), 415 (cheating) and 420 (fraud), police sources said.
The case was registered following an order of the Kerala High Court on a writ filed by a church follower. The court observed that there was prima facie evidence to indicate criminal conspiracy, breach of trust and misappropriation of money in the deals.
Along with the cardinal, three others — senior archdiocesan functionaries Father Joshy Puthuva and Father Sebastian Vadakkumpadan and a parishioner Saju Varghese — are also under investigation.
Earlier, the police had sought the advice on the case from the director general of prosecution after the High Court ordered filing of cases against the cardinal and three others. The court had pointed out that the land deal involved a criminal conspiracy, breach of trust and financial irregularities and criticised the police for not registering a case despite being in possession of enough information. The court reminded the police that their inaction amounted to contempt of court.
The court rejected the arguments that only the Pope could initiate action against the bishop and said the cardinal was subject to the law of the land. The court also rejected arguments that the bishop had supreme authority over the diocese's assets.
Last week, a section of the followers of Syro-Malabar Church had accused cardinal Alencherry, who is also archbishop of Ernakulam-Angamaly archdiocese, of selling prime land of the archdiocese in Kochi for 'a very low price'.
They had alleged the role of land mafia in the sale in a 'non-transparent manner', violating even civil and canon laws.
The Presbyteral Council of Ernakulam-Angamaly archdiocese had alleged that a commission appointed by the archbishop to inquire into the land business had found serious violations of canon and civil laws.
According to the priests, the commission found that revenue from the sale of 3.06 acre land in Kochi city was expected to fetch Rs 27 crore, but officially only Rs 9 crore had been shown as sale proceeds.
They claimed that Rs 18 crore was 'shrouded in mystery' and remained unaccounted.
(With inputs from PTI)
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