Tamil Nadu

HC finds three priests guilty of contempt, sentences them to three months imprisonment

The Madras High Court has found Rev. S. Immanuel Devakadatcham, Rt.Rev.Dr.J. George Stephen and Rev.Y.L. Babu Rao guilty of contempt of court and sentenced them to three months of simple imprisonment, besides issuing a direction to pay fine of ₹1,500 each failing which they must undergo 15 more days of imprisonment.

After pronouncing their orders, Justices N. Kirubakaran and P. Velmurugan, however, suspended the sentence till the three priests could file appeals before the Supreme Court. The judges directed the contemnors to execute own bonds for a sum of ₹1 lakh each before the High Court Registry as a pre-condition for suspending the sentence.

The orders were passed on a contempt of court petition moved against the trio by former Governor of Odisha M.M. Rajendran and two others for having removed their names from the list of members of St. George’s Cathedral Church and not printing their names in the pew sheets of the church despite an order passed by the court on January 11, 2018.

Authoring the verdict, Justice Velmurugan pointed out that Mr. Rajendran and others were suspended from primary membership of the church for a year on June 28, 2013, forcing them to file a civil suit in the High Court in 2015. The suspension had expired when the suit was pending and on January 11, 2018, the court passed certain orders in favour of the plaintiffs.

However, the three contemnors, who had served as presbyter-in-charger, Bishop and presbyter-in-charge respectively of St. George’s Cathedral Trust, passed an order dated January 10, 2018, suspending the three petitioners for a further period of two years. The second suspension order, issued after four years of expiry of the first order, was served on the petitioners on January 12, 2018.

Suspecting that the second suspension order would not have been passed just a day before the court order, the judges wondered why the second suspension was not brought to the notice of the court when the suit was heard on January 10 as well as January 11, 2018. “It clearly shows the intention of the contemnors,” the Bench said and found them guilty of contempt.

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Printable version | Jul 25, 2021 5:39:34 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/hc-finds-three-priests-guilty-of-contempt-sentences-them-to-three-months-imprisonment/article33764147.ece

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