HC asks Ker govt to take control of Church

Kochi, Dec 3 (PTI) The Kerala High Court on Tuesday ordered the state government to immediately take over control of a Church at nearby Kothamangalam where the authorities allegedly failed to implement a Supreme Court verdict granting its possession to the Orthodox faction due to protests by followers of rival Jacobite Christian faith.

Disposing of a plea filed by Orthodox faction priest Thomas Paul Ramban seeking the court's intervention to implement the apex court order, Justice P B Sureshkumar directed the Ernakulam district collector to use force to remove the protesters and take over the church known as Kothamangalam Cheriyapalli.

The court said once the church is taken over and peace and law is maintained, religious ceremonies can be conducted with police protection.

In its order, the court directed the collector to ensure public order, peace and tranquility in the locality of the church forthwith and deploy force if necessary.

The court directed the collector to take over the church after removing all people squatting inside the church premises and its compound.

The collector shall make arrangements as he considers proper for looking after the church, it said.

The church, precincts and movables shall be handed over to the petitioner priest for the management, if the collector is satisfied that the situation prevailing in the area is conducive, Justice Sureshkumar said.

If the body of any parishioner is to be buried, there shall be no impediment for it and the religious services required shall be rendered by the petitioner priest, the court said.

Once the Church and its precincts are handed over to the priest, he shall be extended necessary police aid for conducting religious ceremonies in the church, the court said.

If any person creates trouble, he shall be arrested and removed, it said.

Kothmangalam had witnessed a tense situation in October this year when a large number of Jacobite faction priests and followers prevented those belonging to the Orthodox faction from entering the church to take its possession as per a Supreme Court order.

Hundreds of people belonging to the Jacobite faction, who were camping in the church, had prevented the implementation of the apex court's verdict when the Orthodox faction priests reached there.

Gates of the church were closed from inside by priests and followers of the Jacobite faction, forcing the Orthodox faction priests to wait outside.

Recently, priests and followers of the Orthodox Church had entered the Piravom Valiyapalli near here and taken its possession amid strong protests by the Jacobite faction.

The Orthodox faction could enter the church following a High Court directive to police to implement the apex court order.

Two years ago, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of the Orthodox faction on a dispute with rival Jacobites over control of over 1,000 churches and properties in Kerala. PTI COR TGB BN BN