State inaction has fueled illegal abuses by religious organizations: Kerala HC

The Kerala High Court recently found that reprehensible inaction on the part of the government, political leaders and society in general has fueled massive attacks by some religious/charitable institutions/organizations on large areas of land across Kerala.

Justice P. Somarajan’s Chamber of Justice said that a comfortable environment still exists throughout the state that encourages encroachments on government lands with the apparent acquisition of land by such institutions.

“This has given religious institutions immense wealth and authority to dominate the will of the government machinery and is detrimental to our democratic system,” the single judge said.
The court considered petitions related to the 2018 church land scam, which involved alleged irregularities in the sale of land from the Syro-Malabar Church. Earlier, the court had asked the state government to conduct an investigation into allegations that one of the properties sold by the church cardinal was originally unlawfully attacked state land.

The court found that there is an unseen favorable atmosphere for organized intruders/land mafia in the state, as evidenced by the fact that no one has addressed the issue to date.

The court stressed that both the state and central governments have a duty to carry out the constitutional mandate to preserve freehold property and public property.

“The property allegedly obtained from such bodies/institutions must be investigated and investigated by taking appropriate action against the culprits,” the court said.

Therefore, the court found that the incident at hand was only the tip of the iceberg and ruled that the state government has an obligation to eliminate all kinds of interference with the government land and to check the validity of “Pattayam” provided that received the robe under it of the Land Assignments Act.

The court said in order to find out such incidents across Kerala, the state government through the secretary-general should form a high-level federal body to conduct an investigation. “It is also advisable that the state government enact state law providing for a periodic/quinteennial survey to find any encroachment or interference with state government property/public property/Bona Vacantia property,” the court suggested before .

It also ordered that the state government be obliged to register proceedings against the erring officials and the perpetrators under the provisions of the State Care Act.

In addition, the court requested the central government to set up a central body to deal with the issues related to the income, expenditure, acquisition and disposal of assets of charitable organizations/institutions and religious institutions listed in Entry No. 28 the contemporaneous list of the VII inventory Constitution of India.

“There is no single central law that sets the law on charities or charities in India. Today, the term “charity” is widely used to mean, under this guise, the accumulation and gift of wealth and possessions without accountability to any responsible authority. Article 19(1)(c) of the Constitution of India guarantees the right of all citizens to form an association or association, but that does not mean that it should be without legal status or legal recognition when it comes to acquiring and accumulating large amounts of wealth and assets under the guise of charity.” according to the court.

The court released the matter for further hearing on May 31, 2023.

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