New Delhi: Supreme Court on Wednesday allowed Cardinal George Alencherry, the Major Archbishop of Syro-Malabar Church, more time to appear before the trial court considering the case on an alleged land scam.
The Court asked him to appear before the Judicial First-Class Magistrate Court at Kakkanad in Ernakulam on January 18, 2023.
On Tuesday, the court declined a plea submitted on his behalf for exemption from personal appearance before the Magistrate on Wednesday.
The submission was advanced by Senior Advocate Sidharth Luthra on behalf of the Cardinal before a Bench of Justices Hrishikesh Roy and Dipankar Datta.
"The matter is kept today because the date is coming up before the Trial Court on the 14th. That was the whole purpose. All I am saying is let appearance not be insisted upon. My difficulty is only this, I represent this very senior gentleman, he is a Cardinal, milords. Let the man not have to appear in person tomorrow because there are sensitivities involved,” Luthra argued.
Raising objections, Senior Advocate Jayant Muthuraj and Advocate Raghenth Basant, appearing for the complainants, pointed out that the High Court passed an order on November 9 declining the very same request made by the Cardinal, reported Live Law.
"The High Court recorded before the law, all are equal. You cannot have special treatment. An elaborately detailed order was passed. That order was not challenged, without challenging he wants this now,” Muthuraj argued.
Basant submitted that the request for exemption was sought by the Cardinal by suppressing the High Court's judgment dated November 9.
"If such a (High Court) order is passed, we would not like to pass any order. As such we are not taking up the matter today", the Bench said.
At this juncture, Luthra said that he was not aware of the said judgment of the High court, as per Live Law.
The bench was considering a Special Leave Petition (SLP) filed by the Cardinal against the judgment delivered in August 2021 which refused to quash the criminal cases against Cardinal Mar George Alencherry over the sale of properties belonging to Ernakulam-Angamaly Archdiocese.
Apart from the Cardinal, the Eparchy of Bathery and the Catholic Diocese of Thamarassery also filed SLPs challenging the observations made by the High Court that Bishops have no power to alienate church assets, reported Live law.
A single bench of the High Court had passed the directions on October 27 while monitoring the investigation of land scam allegations against Cardinal George Alencherry.
The bench also requested the Central Government to consider framing a law to regulate religious organisations.
Earlier, while refusing to quash the criminal cases against the Cardinal in 2021, the single bench of Justice P Somarajan had observed that Bishops have no power to alienate church assets. Challenging the findings, a few other dioceses approached the Supreme Court.