Kerala

SC declines to intervene in burial row

Court also does not interfere with Ordinance promulgated by State government

The Supreme Court on Friday declined to intervene in a dispute regarding the burial of Jacobites in cemeteries of churches controlled by the Orthodox faction of the Malankara Church.

A Bench led by Justice Arun Mishra orally said the vicar, and not the court, was concerned with burials. Justice Mishra, however, remarked that the court would not allow the dead to be insulted.

The court also did not interfere with an Ordinance promulgated by the State government -- Kerala Christian Cemeteries (Right to Burial of Corpse) Ordinance of 2020 -- to legally facilitate the burial of Jacobites in their family cemeteries located in churches administered by the Orthodox faction. The ordinance provides Christians the right to bury their loved ones in the cemetery where their ancestors are buried.

The Orthodox faction had filed a contempt petition against the Kerala government for promulgating the Ordinance. In its reply, the State explained that it was compelled to promulgate the law in view of several cases of delay and obstruction of the timely burial of Jacobites. The delay and obstruction were having severe religious and social impact and amounted to a denial of human rights. The government had received many petitions for police protection to conduct religious burials. The government denied acting in contempt.

The court, however, said that its intervention so far, and the judgment that it had pronounced on July 3, 2017, was restricted only to maintaining peace, law and order. It did not want to enter any other domains in the case.

On a personal note, Justice Mishra said that as the judge heading the Bench which heard the case, he had been able to resolve only half the problems. Justice Mishra said the other would probably be resolved by the judge who comes in his stead after his retirement.

On a personal note, Justice Mishra said that as the judge heading the Bench which heard the case, he had been able to resolve only half the problems. He added that the other would probably be resolved by the judge who comes in his stead after his retirement.

The apex court struck a sober note in the hearing, quite different from when it had pulled up the Chief Secretary last year for not being able to implement the 2017 judgment. Justice Mishra had then said the State was “making a mockery of the justice delivery system”.

On July 3, 2017, a Bench led by Justice Mishra had upheld the 1934 constitution of the Church and dismissed a dozen review petitions filed by the Jacobite faction in a decision which had impacted over 2,000 parish churches and 30 million followers of the Malankara Church across the world.

The Bench had, with their July judgment, brought a finality to the over 100-year-old dispute between the factions with allegiance to the Patriarch of Antioch in Syria (Jacobites) and the Catholicos of the East - the two powerful factions of the Malankara Church, believed to be established in AD 52 by St. Thomas the Apostle.

The apex court had twice previously intervened in the dispute between the two groups – once in 1958 and the second time in 1995. On both occasions, the apex court had upheld the validity of the 1934 constitution to administer the parish churches.

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Printable version | Feb 18, 2020 8:49:31 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/sc-declines-to-intervene-in-burial-row/article30587519.ece

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