Take Over Disputed Ernakulam Church Or Face CRPF Deployment: Kerala High Court Ultimatum To Communist Government

Take Over Disputed Ernakulam Church Or Face CRPF Deployment: Kerala High Court Ultimatum To Communist GovernmentKerala High Court (Twitter)
Snapshot
  • The court said that if the State government was unable to take over the church, it should convey it to the CRPF, which could ask its Pallipuram camp to take charge.

The Kerala High Court has given an ultimatum to the Left Democratic Front (LDF) government of Pinarayi Vijayan to take over the St Thomas Church at Kothamangalam in Ernakulam district or face the deployment of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) to take over the religious premises.

The High Court gave the 8 January ultimatum to the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPM) ruled government following a long-standing dispute between Jacobite and Orthodox factions of the Malankara Church over the control of about 1,000 churches between them.

The court said that if the State government was unable to take over the church, it should convey it to the CRPF, which could ask its Pallipuram camp to take charge.

While giving the ultimatum, the High Court refused to accede to the Jacobite faction plea to maintain status quo.

Malayalam daily Malayala Manorama reported that the State government sought three months' time to take over the church as many of its officials have been deployed with the task of tackling the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The Vijayan government also apprehended law and order problem if the church was to be taken over.

However, the High Court came down heavily on the government’s stand before giving it an ultimatum.

The Kerala government has been in talks with both the factions since September this year. The talks in September were termed intermediary.

However, the LDF government efforts drew flak as it has not tried to implement a 2017 Supreme Court ruling, ordering handing over Jacobite churches to the Orthodox faction.

This is in contrast to what it did in 2018 in the Sabarimala Ayyappa temple case. Then, the Kerala government went all out to implement the Supreme Court ruling to allow women aged between 10 and 50 years into the Sabarimala Ayyappa Temple.

Until then, they were barred.

The Vijayan government went to the extent of using force to implement the rules when protests broke out in various parts of the state, particularly at Sabarimala.

The ruling has now been kept in abeyance with the apex court taking up a review petition against its ruling allowing women of reproductive age to visit the revered temple.

In the talks for the settlement of their issue with the Orthodox faction, the Jacobite faction has sought a referendum on who should control which church.

The Orthodox faction, however, is insisting that the Supreme Court verdict be implemented.

In 2017, the Supreme Court had ordered that the Kerala government take over the Jacobite churches and hand them over to the Orthodox faction.

The dispute between the factions cropped up due to a split. The Malankara Church split in 1912 into the Jacobite and Orthodox groups. They reunified in 1959 but the unification lasted only until 1973.

Since then, both the factions have been at loggerheads over the churches and properties of the Malankara Church. Besides the dispute over 1,000 churches, a few of them have remained closed for years now and some are in dilapidated condition.

The Supreme Court’s ruling in 2017 came after the Orthodox Church petitioned it, demanding that all churches under the Malankara Church be governed as per the Church Constitution of 1934.

The validity of the 1934 constitution of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church to govern the parishes under the church had already been upheld by the Supreme Court. The Orthodox Church has been following this constitution all along.

The Kerala government has not made any serious attempt to implement the Supreme Court ruling and the apex court pulled up the state’s chief secretary in 2018 for this.

M.R. Subramani is Executive Editor, Swarajya. He tweets @mrsubramani

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