SC pulls up HC for‘tinkering’ with verdict

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St. Mary’s Orthodox Syrian Church, Kandanad.  

Apex court rules in favour of Orthodox faction

Supreme Court judge Justice Arun Mishra has lashed out at the Kerala High Court for passing an interim order on March 8 in the Malankara Church spat which effectively undercuts a 2017 judgment of the apex court resolving the dispute.

A visibly annoyed Justice Mishra on Friday called it ‘the heights of judicial indiscipline’ and ‘tinkering’ with the apex court judgment. The apex court judge orally told the lawyers for the parties: “Tell your judges in Kerala that they are part of India.”

The Supreme Court Bench later disposed of the plea filed by Father Isaac Mattemmel Corepiscopa, vicar of St Mary’s Orthodox Syrian Church, Kandanad, against the High Court order. The apex court further disposed of the suit pending before the High Court effectively in favour of the Orthodox faction in line with its July 3, 2017 judgment.

Kandanad church

The Orthodox faction had filed a suit in the Kerala High Court to restrain the Jacobites from conducting services and religious administration of the Kandanad church in Ernakulam district.

The Kerala High Court, in its interim order on March 8, allowed the Jacobite priests to conduct services on alternative weeks. It is on this the Orthodox faction approached the apex court, saying the Kerala High Court’s order was contradicting the apex court judgment of 2017.

In this 2017 verdict, a Supreme Court Bench led by Justice Mishra had upheld the 1934 constitution of the Church and dismissed a dozen review petitions filed by the Jacobite faction in a decision which had impacted over 2,000 parish churches and 30 million followers of the Malankara Church across the world.

Earlier this year, the apex court had pulled up the Chief Secretary for not being able to implement the 2017 judgment. Justice Mishra had said the State was “making a mockery of the justice delivery system”.

In July 2017, a Bench of Justices Arun Mishra and (now retired) Amitava Roy had upheld a 1995 verdict of the Supreme Court concluding that the 1934 constitution of the Malankara Church governs the parish churches under it. The Bench had, with its July judgment, brought a finality to the over 100-year-old dispute between the faction with allegiance to the Patriarch of Antioch in Syria (Jacobites) and the Catholicos of the East — the two powerful factions of the Malankara Church, believed to be established in AD 52 by St. Thomas.

The apex court had twice previously intervened in the dispute between the two groups – once in 1958 and the second time in 1995. On both occasions, the apex court had upheld the validity of the 1934 constitution to administer the parish churches.

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