Land scam: SC refuses to quash criminal cases against Cardinal George Alencherry

Cardinal George Alencherry, the Major Archbishop of Syro-Malabar Church
Cardinal George Alencherry, the Major Archbishop of Syro-Malabar Church. File photo: Manorama

New Delhi: In a set back to Cardinal Mar George Alencherry, the Major Archbishop of Syro-Malabar Church, the Supreme Court on Friday refused to quash the criminal cases against him over alleged irregularities in the sale of properties belonging to Ernakulam-Angamalay Archdiocese.

The court dismissed the special leave petition (SLP) filed by George Alencherry against the judgment delivered by the Kerala High Court in August 2021 which refused to quash the criminal proceedings against him over the land scam.

At the same time, the Supreme Court expressed displeasure towards the subsequent orders passed by the single bench of the High Court in Alencherry's petition (after refusing to quash the case against him).

Apart from the Cardinal, the Eparchy of Bathery and the Catholic Diocese of Thamarassery had also filed SLPs challenging the general observations made by the High Court that Bishops have no power to alienate church assets.

While reserving the judgment in January, the bench comprising Justices Dinesh Maheshwari and Bela Trivedi had questioned the approach taken by the single bench of the High Court in continuing to issue further directions in the matter, after the dismissal of the Section 482 CrPC petition filed by the Cardinal. It may be recalled that last year, the High Court had issued follow-up directions to the State to identify public properties encroached by religious trusts. The High Court had also recommended that the Central Government should bring a uniform law to regulate religious trusts.

The dispute pertains to the execution of various sale deeds in respect of properties held by the Syro Malabar Church, a religious congregation allegedly without compliance with the requirements as per the bye-laws of the Church causing heavy financial losses to the church and its parishioners.

It was also alleged that valuable properties were disposed of at throwaway prices are the result of a criminal conspiracy hatched between the Alencherry in collusion with his henchmen and the persons who had purchased the properties. He is facing charges for cheating, criminal breach of trust, forgery, criminal conspiracy etc., punishable under Section 120 B, 406, 409, 418, 420, 423, 465, 467, 468 and 34 of IPC for his offences.

(With inputs from LiveLaw)

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