Law Reforms commission submits draft bill to resolve church dispute

By B Balagopal / Mathrubhumi News

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In case of any complaint regarding ownership, the believers can give a letter to the magistrate claiming their majority.

New Delhi: The Kerala State Law Reforms Commission headed by Justice K T Thomas has submitted a draft bill to resolve the Orthodox-Jacobite church dispute. The major condition of the bill is to decide the ownership on the basis of majority when a dispute takes place.

The bill that was formed to protect the ownership rights and faith of Malankara churches also suggest that referendum should be organised for deciding the majority. The referendum should be carried out by a three-member authority headed by a judge retired from supreme court or high court.

One member each from Orthodox and Jacobite factions should be included in the authority. If the factions did not suggest names of their members, the government can directly appoint. The decision taken by the authority will be applicable for all believers.

In case of any complaint regarding ownership, the believers can give a letter to the magistrate claiming their majority. Nobody should be evacuated from the church until the refrendum is over, it is stated in the draft bill.

According to the supreme court verdict in 2017, the administration of churches should be on the basis of the Church Constitution. However, the Church Constitution is not a registered document, it cannot be used to decide the ownership of churches.

The properties of church was purchased with the money contributed by the believers. Even after the supreme court verdict in 2017, dispute between Orthodox and Jacobite factions continue in Malankara churches and this resulted in serious law and order violations, it is pointed out.

It is learnt that the law reforms commission prepared the draft bill as requested by the state government. However, it is yet to be confirmed an ordinance should be promulgated on the basis of the bill.

Earlier, it was stated that legislating a law to override the supreme court verdict in Sabarimala issue was not possible. But when an ordinance is issued in church dispute, it can be a major setback.

The state government issued the cemetery ordinance based on the draft bill of the law reforms commission. Former law secretary K Sasidharan Nair is the vice chairperson of the commission. The chief minister's chief advisor Dr NK Jayakumar and Lisamma Augustine are other members.

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