Churches fight over Rs 50,000 crore properties

published on November 7, 2009

Churches fight unholy war over properties

Parvaiz Sultan | New DelhiDaily Pioneer

The ownership of Church properties spread across the country and valued at Rs 50,000 crore has become a bone of contention with two ecclesiastical bodies slugging it out in the court. The Church of India, Pakistan, Burma and Ceylon (CIPBC) has approached the Delhi High Court alleging that disposing of Church properties by the Church of North India (CNI) was illegal as the former was the legal owner of the same.

Representing CIPBC before the bench of Justices Badar Durrez Ahmed and Justice Veena Birbal, senior counsel Neeraj Kishan Kaul submitted that several valuables, immovable and movable properties belonging to the CIPBC had been captured by the Church of North India Trust Association (CNITA). Pleading for impleadment in the matter regarding Church properties pending in the court, the petitioner submitted that nobody was competent and or has any right to sell, dispose off and alienate trustees etc of such Church properties particularly for his personal benefits or for the benefit of others.

“Most of the Church properties and funds are now in wrongful occupation and hands of unauthorised persons and are being used by the so-called Church of North India and a few properties are in actual control and under the management of the appellant Church of India that is the CIPBC,” the petition stated.

Claiming that the petitioner was the only legal successors of the Church of India for all ecclesiastical and legal purposes, the petition said, “In fact, such a claim of respondents as true successors of the CIPBC is a false and motivated one and has been designed only to grant illegal and occupy control over the properties of CIPBC and not for any ecclesiastical purposes.”

According to the petition, the dispute between the two Churches dates back to 1970 when some of bishops who were active members of Central Council of Church of India passed a purported resolution to form separate union of six churches.

“Under the garb of such union between six Churches with some ulterior motives illegally amalgamated their Church into one new Church under the name of CNI and illegally took over the administration of control of the affairs, Church, activities mainly the properties and funds of the six churches in question, including the Church of India,” the petition of CIPBC claims.

The CIPBC was established by an Act of Parliament known as Indian Church Act 1927 to bridge the differences between two churches exiting then. Prior to 1927, two Church organizations were in existence and the first one was known as Church of England and other was Church of England in India. Under the provisions of the Indian Church Measure of 1927 and the Indian Church Act, 1927, the Church of England in India dissolved and became the Church of India, Pakistan, Burma and Ceylon.

The court, being slightly reluctant, asked the counsel appearing for the petitioner what benefit CIPBC would get if it was allowed to be impleaded in the matter as it was already contesting a suit in the Supreme Court. “Suits regarding properties have been consolidated in the Supreme Court and you are a party in one of the suits, after the court asked for consolidation, you become party automatically,” the court said, adding that the matter is pending for years in the court, why you have come after ten years praying for impleadment?

However, following the submission by the CIPBC, the court deferred the matter and asked petitioner’s counsel Kaul to review the legal aspect of impleadment and submit it to the court. “We were contesting a suit in Lucknow,” Kaul clarified and added, “We are permitted to be impleaded in the matter as the SC has said impleadment can be done at any stage of the proceedings by the interested party. But our earlier plea was rejected by the single judge saying it (impleadment) would unnecessarily delay the trial.”

Kaul has also submitted if permitted he would submit written submission within two days so that the proceedings are not delayed.

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