Tamil Nadu

Illegal sand mining: bail pleas of bishop, 5 priests dismissed again

The bail petitions of the Bishop of Syro Malankara Diocese of Pathanamthitta, Kerala, and five other priests, who were arrested recently in connection with the illegal sand mining in the property of the diocese at Pottal near Kallidaikurichi in the district that had been leased out to one Manuel George of Kottayam for farming and manufacturing M-sand, were dismissed for the second time on Friday.

Manuel George, who took on lease the 300 acres of diocese land in 2019, allegedly illegally quarried 27,774 cubic metres of sand from nearby Vandal Odai. He was arrested and slapped with a fine of ₹9.57 crore.

The CB-CID police, who investigate the case, arrested Bishop Most Rev. Samuel Mar Irenios, 69, Vicar General Rev. Fr. Shaji Thomas, 58, Fr. Jose Chamakala, 69, Fr. George Samuel, 56, Fr. Jijo James, 37, and Fr. Jose Kalayil, 53, on last Saturday night as the investigators suspected that the illegal sand quarrying was done with the knowledge of the diocese authorities.

When the bail petitions were moved on Wednesday by the bishop and the priests, they were dismissed.

As their bail petitions again came up for hearing on Friday, the prosecution argued that the investigation in the case, which was at the preliminary stage, was yet to ascertain the nature of transaction between Manuel George and the bishop and the others.

The petitioners’ counsel argued that they were in no way connected with the activities of Manuel George, who was controlling the land after he took it on lease.

Though the petitioners’ counsel submitted before the court that two of the petitioners were cancer patients and were under treatment, he did not submit the medical reports given by doctors, Principal Sessions Judge (in-charge) Jacintha Martin said.

“As their medical reports were not submitted, it is understood that they are not very sick. Since they have been admitted to a government hospital (Tirunelveli Medical College Multi-Specialty Hospital) now, they can get treatment there. Hence, releasing the petitioners on medical grounds will not be fair because they are already getting good medical treatment,” the judge said while dismissing their bail petitions.

On the bail petitions filed by Rev. Fr. Shaji Thomas, Rev. Fr. George Samuel, Rev. Fr. Jose and Rev. Fr. Jijo, the judge said she was not inclined to grant bail at this stage as they could influence witnesses and manipulate documents.

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Printable version | Aug 18, 2022 6:47:48 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/illegal-sand-mining-bail-pleas-of-bishop-5-priests-dismissed-again-tirunelveli/article38413832.ece