Kochi: Major Archbishop Cardinal George Alenchery of the Syro-Malabar Church received a major relief on Tuesday with a division bench of the High Court quashing the order of a single bench to register a criminal case against him and three others in connection with the controversial land deal of the Ernakulam-Angamaly archdiocese. The division bench issued the order on an appeal filed by the Cardinal challenging the single bench order to register a criminal case against him and others for cheating, betrayal and conspiracy under sections 120 (b), 420 and 415 of the IPC.
Cardinal Alenchery was the first accused in the case while Fr Joshy Puthuva, Fr Sebastian Vadakkumpadan and real estate broker Saju Varghese are the other accused. The order of the single bench against the Cardinal and others was passed on a petition filed by Shine Varghese, a native of Cherthala. The division bench headed by Chief Justice Antony Dominic and Justice Sheshadri Naidu said the police are free to go ahead with investigations in connection with the case if they have evidence based on factual details of the land deal. In the writ appeal, Cardinal Alenchery submitted that there was no scope for registering a criminal case and that the single bench order based on hearsay would not stand the legal scrutiny.
The petitioner against the Cardinal and others said they had entered into a criminal conspiracy to sell nearly 3.01 acres of land of the Ernakulam-Angamaly archdiocese at a price lower than the price approved by the authorities concerned of the Church. The transaction resulted in a huge loss to the archdiocese. As against the approved price of Rs 27.15 crore, the land was sold for Rs 13.51 crore.