KOCHI: In a big blow to Cardinal Mar George Alencherry, the Ernakulam Principal Sessions Court in on Saturday ruled that the three accused, including the Cardinal, must face trial in connection with the controversial land deals of Ernakulam-Angamaly Archdiocese.
The verdict was on a case where 60 cents of property near Bharat Mata College, Thrikkakkara, was sold to a real-estate broker Saju Varghese Kunnel. The Cardinal, Archdiocese former finance officer Fr Joshy Pothva and Saju are the first, second and third accused in the case.
The order is based on a complaint filed by Joshy Varghese, a member of St Mary’s Church, Perumbavoor, which belongs to the Archdiocese. “The ruling of the court prima-facie was based on the complaint filed by Joshy. The court is convinced that there are clear violations of law. There are two complaints – writing the deed of the sale of property without even receiving any payment and selling the property belonging to the Ernakulam-Angamaly Archdiocese without communicating with any of the committees of the Church,” said Rajendran V, the advocate who fought the case. The copy of the order issued by the Sessions Court is yet to be received, he said.
Meanwhile, Indian Catholic Forum vice-president Binu Chacko said the verdict was unexpected. “We’ll move the High Court with a petition challenging the lower court’s order,” said Binu. However, since the ruling of Sessions Court stands, it would be difficult for the Cardinal to revoke it even if a petition is given to the High Court, Rajendran said.
The Kakkanad Judicial First Class Magistrate Court had registered a criminal case against Cardinal in April for blatant violations of the law and rampant discrepancies observed in the land deals made by the Church.
Meanwhile, the Media Commission of the Syro Malabar Church said in a release on Sunday that Cardinal would respect the verdict of the lower court and follow and cooperate with further proceedings in the case.