The Supreme Court on Friday lashed out at the Kerala High Court over its intervention in a dispute between Church factions in contravention of its judgment. A bench of Justices Arun Mishra and M R Shah was upset about the March 8 interim order of a single judge of the HC, allowing the Orthodox and Jacobite factions of Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church to conduct religious services in a church in Ernakulam district. “The High Court has no right to disturb our decision. This is height of judicial indiscipline. Tell your judges in Kerala they are part of India,” Justice Mishra said.
The court’s reference was to its July 3, 2017, judgment upholding the Orthodox faction’s rights to administer churches under Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church. The HC ordered status quo, which, however, had the effect of allowing both sides to conduct services in the Church in question. On Friday, the top court questioned the HC judgment and said, “It is highly objectionable. Who is this judge? Tell his name aloud. Let all know.”
The counsel representing the respondents then read out the name from the HC order. The apex court was hearing a plea by the Orthodox faction challenging the HC order. The Orthodox faction had filed a civil suit claiming exclusive rights to administer the Ernakulam church concerned and seeking an injunction against anyone else intervening in its rights. This was dismissed, following which the Orthodox faction moved the HC.
In an interim order on March 8, the HC ordered status quo. Upset with the HC order, the Orthodox faction appealed to the apex court. Appearing for the Orthodox side, advocate Sadarul Anam referred to the SC judgment of July 3, 2017, adjudicating the dispute between the two factions. The court had upheld the Orthodox faction’s rights to administer churches under the 1934 Constitution of the Malankara Church.
Taking note, the SC bench on Friday wondered how the HC could pass the interim order which was in contravention of its decision. The court set aside the HC order and disposed of the suit, saying the 2017 decision was in a representative manner and applied to all churches in question.