Probe Launched Against Church Of South India For Allegedly Selling Defence Land for Bengaluru Metro

Probe Launched Against Church Of South India For Allegedly Selling Defence Land for Bengaluru MetroChurch - Representative Image

Investigation is currently underway into the alleged sale of Defence Ministry owned land by the Church of South India (CSI) for the Bengaluru metro project and collecting Rs 60 crore in compensation, IANS reported.

"We are inquiring into the Defence Ministry's complaint that the CSI had illegally sold a portion of its land, leased to it over a century ago, for the metro project and collected Rs 60 crore compensation from its operator (BMRCL)," Bengaluru Deputy Commissioner of Police (Central) Chetan Singh Rathore told IANS.

The Cubbon Park police station on 20 August registered an FIR against the CSI for allegedly 'cheating' the defence ministry by selling 7,426 square metres of its land located in the All Saints Church complex to the state-run Bengaluru Metro Rail Corporation Ltd (BMRCL) without its knowledge and consent.

The Defence Ministry had earlier 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 for a payment of Rs 60 crore from Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Limited (BMRCL) and Karnataka Industrial Areas. Development Board (KIADB).

For the 72 km second phase of the metro project in the city connecting with the 43 km phase one on the east-west and the north-south routes, BMRCL has been acquiring private and public lands across the city with compensation at the market rate and giving transfer development rights (TDR) for those surrendering their properties in the way of the route.

BMRCL acquired the disputed land for construction of the Vellara Junction underground station on the Red Line from Dairy Circle to Nagawara. In total, BMRCL acquired 3,618 sq meters of the church land occupied by tenants such as Tom’s Hotel and Fatima Bakery. At the time, it paid Rs 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.

The church official however claim that East India Company was the original owner of all public lands in the city's cantonment area during the British Raj and vast tracts of lands were gifted or donated to social organisations and religious institutions for building community halls, churches, temples, mosques and other places of worship.