KOCHI: The state government cannot claim helplessness in implementing judicial directions by citing apprehensions of breach of peace and threat of violence when it has the mechanism to ensure compliance of lawful orders, the Kerala High Court has said.
The observation by Justice Devan Ramachandran came while hearing a plea seeking police protection by the orthodox faction of the St.Mary's Orthodox Church at Vadavucode in Ernakulam for conducting religious services and worship there.
This is one of several cases pending before the high court seeking protection involving religious services in churches belonging to the Malankara Syrian Orthodox Church as there is a difference of opinion between the Orthodox and Jacobite faction with regard to the constitution to be followed.
While the Orthodox faction is following the 1934 Constitution of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, the Jacobites claim the church ought to be governed by a 2002 constitution adopted by them and they also formed a new sabha -- 'Yacobaya Suriyani Christiani Sabha'.
The issue was settled by the Supreme Court in 2017 by holding that the 1934 constitution would be followed in the churches belonging to the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church.
However, to implement the apex court decision, the orthodox faction of various churches have moved courts seeking protection to carry out religious services.
On September 17, in the instant case, Additional Advocate General Asok M Cherian, told the court that while the state government was willing to comply with the directions of the apex court, it is finding it difficult to do so "on account of fear of breach of peace and threat of violence".
Responding to the submission, Justice Devan Ramachandran said, "I am afraid that the government cannot plead helplessness as above when they have the mechanism and the systems to ensure compliance of lawful orders, through means of law.
The judge also said that "issues between the rival parties were still dangerously poised and therefore, before I take a final decision on the prayers in these cases, I am certain that the government must disclose their stand in the matter."
"This is important because it is the machinery under the government which will require to be used in the event this court is to order protection as prayed for," the judge said.
Adjourning the case to September 29, the court directed the government to make clear, by then, its stand in these matters and the action required to be taken to ensure compliance of the apex court's order.
On August 12, another single judge bench of the high court had chastised the district administration and police of Kottayam for not implementing an August 2019 direction of a Munsiff court barring religious services at St Marthasmooni Church by the Jacobite faction.
The district administration and the police had not implemented the Munsiff court order citing law and order concerns.
The high court, in that matter, had said that the district administration and the police ought to have implemented the Munsiff court order long back since it had not been stayed and heavens would not have fallen if it had been done.
"If we accept the stand of the District Administration and the police department, that, because of law and order problems an order passed by the court cannot be implemented, then there is no rule of law in this country.
"Once an order is passed by a court of law, that is binding to all concerned, and the District Administration and the police department are duty bound to implement the same. If they are not able to implement an order passed by the court, that will be a failure of justice. That will lead to anarchy," the high court had said.
The observation and directions by the high court had come on a plea by the Vicar of the St.Marthasmooni Church, who claimed that the August 2019 order of the Munsiff court and its subsequent November 2019 direction, to provide police protection for implementing the earlier order, were not complied with by the district administration or the police.