ED Attaches Rs 60 cr Cash Deposits Of Church of South India That It Received Via Illegal Sale Of Defence Ministry Land To Namma Metro Representative image. (DIPTENDU DUTTA/AFP/Getty Images)

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) today attached assets worth nearly Rs 60 crore of the Church of South India Trust Association (CSITA) in Bengaluru for alleged illegal transfer of land leased to it by the Defence Ministry.

The ED is a specialized financial investigation agency under the Department of Revenue, Ministry of Finance, Government of India.

In a statement, the ED said the attached assets are in the form of fixed deposits maintained and available with the State Bank of India and the action has been initiated under provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 (PMLA).

According to the ED, investigation was initiated on the basis of an FIR registered at Ashoknagar Police Station, Bengaluru, against the CSITA for allegedly “dishonestly” entering into an arrangement for transfer of the title of a piece of land measuring 7426.886 square metres belonging to the Ministry of Defence.

In Aug 2019, the Defence Ministry had initiated a complaint against the Church of South India (CSI) for making false claims of ownership over a land strip belonging to the ministry and foregoing its ownership over the same in lieu of a payment of Rs 60 crore from Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Limited (BMRCL) and Karnataka Industrial Areas Development Board (KIADB).

BMRCL acquired the land for construction of the Vellara Junction underground station on the Red Line from Dairy Circle to Nagawara. BMRCL acquired 3,618 sq meters of church land occupied by tenants such as Tom’s Hotel and Fatima Bakery. At the time, it paid Rss 60 crore as compensation to the Church of South India.

The Defence Estate Office (DEO) of the Defence Ministry, however, produced survey documents to establish that the land claimed by the Church belongs to it. The ministry has also staked claim to the compensation.

In the first week of July, the DEO (Karnataka circle) wrote to All Saints Church and Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Ltd stating that the church land was part of defence land — Survey No 275 of Civil and Military Station, Bengaluru — which was leased by the Quarter Master General (QMG) to the church authorities during 1865,1884 and 1898. The CSI is the parent body of All Saints Church.

The letter demanded that since the land belongs to the Defence Ministry, the said compensation should be paid to the Consolidated Fund of India.

India’s second-largest Christian church – Church of South India (CSI) - is the largest Protestant denomination in the country. It is a union of churches belonging to Anglican Methodist, Congregational, Presbyterian and Reformed sects.

CSI assets across South India are estimated to be in the region of Rs 1 lakh crore. It reportedly receives at least Rs 1,000 crore annually in the form of donations and various other offerings. It manages and runs over 5,000 educational institutions across southern India.

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