The Madras High Court has permitted Rt. Rev. V. Devasahayam to continue as caretaker Bishop of the Madras Diocese till a new appointment is made by the competent authority.
Allowing appeals by the executive committee of the Synod, Church of South India (CSI), represented by its General Secretary, Rev. Moses Jayakumar, and the Moderator, CSI, the Most Rev. J. W. Gladstone, against a single Judge’s order, a Division Bench comprising of Justices M. Chockalingam and R. Subbiah held that the Synod was the supreme governing and legislative body of the CSI. They were the final authority in all matters pertaining to the church.
Though Rt. Rev. Dr. Devasahayam had not made out a prima facie case to continue as Bishop, in view of the vacancy that was created, the Bishop has got to be permitted to continue to be the caretaker Bishop till the new appointment, the Bench said.
The Laity Association of CSI, Madras Diocese, had earlier filed a suit seeking to declare that Dr. Devasahayam could not hold the post of Bishop beyond May 1 this year. An interim injunction to restrain him from holding the post beyond that date was filed.
The Moderator issued a communication in April stating that the term of office of the Bishop would end on May 1 and that he might continue as a caretaker Bishop from May 2 till such time the Synod’s executive committee took a decision as per an interim order by the court.
Meanwhile, Dr. Devasahayam filed the instant suit seeking a declaration that he was entitled to continue as Bishop till he completed the age of 65. He also said the Moderator’s letter was contrary to the CSI constitution. He sought a permanent injunction restraining the defendants from interfering with his functioning as Bishop. A single Judge allowed the Bishop’s applications. Hence, the present appeals.
The Bench said in April 1999, the Synod Secretariat, CSI, had given the instrument of election and appointment of Dr. Devasahayam for the Madras Diocese. The election and appointment referred to in that document would refer to the earlier appointment of 10 years originally accepted by the Bishop and confirmed by the Synod. Having accepted the appointment for 10 years, now Dr. Devasahayam could not be permitted to say that he would continue till 65 years of age. The Bench said by way of an interim arrangement, the Moderator had permitted the Bishop to continue as a caretaker Bishop.