The Kerala High Court has requested the central government to enact uniform central legislation to regulate the functioning of charitable organisations/institutions and religious institutions.
A batch of seven cases challenging criminal action for offences under Sections 120B, 406, 409, 418, 420, 423, 465, 467, 468 and 34 IPC against the Major Archbishop of Syro Malabar Church had been disposed of by the court by order dated 12.08.2021 with a direction to the State Government.
The petitions related to the 2018 Church land scam, in which it previously ordered the State government to investigate whether one of the pieces of land sold by the cardinal was originally government land that was later illegally encroached upon.
In abiding by the order, the State Government submitted a half-baked report without touching into the question of the nature of property and its ownership. Manipulation of several documents under the facade of power of attorney was also not taken up. There is no provision for executing a power of attorney by an inanimate body. But, powers of attorney were invariably and indiscriminately used to ostensibly obtain property left out by an unincorporated charitable association by the appellation “Sisters of Destitute”.
The transfer of the property in favour of another unincorporated body by name “Alexian Brothers” and power of attorney alleged to have been given by the said association in the name of one Fr.Sebastian Vadakkumpadan and the document of transfer created based on such power of attorney, though prima facie evident from the document annexed to the report, was not properly addressed. The question as to whether it is a bona vacantia property was also mystifyingly given the short shrift.
A Single-judge bench of Justice P Somarajan has observed that Now the term ‘charity’ is largely used to accumulate wealth and property under that guise and to give away the same without accounting the same to any responsible authority. Article 19(1)(c) of the Constitution of India guarantees the right of all citizen to form association or union, but that does not mean that it should be without any legal status or legal recognition, when involves acquisition and accumulation of large quantity of wealth and assets under the guise of charity. The Constitution in Part IV lays down Directive Principles of State Policy.
The court stated that The subject of charities, charitable institutions, charitable and religious endowments and religious institutions is listed as entry No.28 in the concurrent list of the 7th schedule to the Constitution of India which means that both the Central and State legislatures are competent to legislate and regulate charitable organizations.
The court stated that the legal framework governing charitable organizations in India is quite complex due to the multiplicity of legislations.
Case title: Cardinal Mar George Alencherry v/s State of Kerala
Citation: Crl.M.C.Nos.8936/2019,9115/2019 & Crl.M.C.Nos.205,1409,1414,2136,2138 of 2020