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Kerala Church loses battle over sacked bishops

Fight for control of TV channel goes to court

  • ucanews.com reporter, Thiruvananthapuram
  • India
  • November 15, 2012
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The Catholic Church in Kerala received a major jolt yesterday when the state’s High Court refused to revoke the sacking of two prelates from the board of a television channel.

The boardroom war in the Jeevan Telecasting Corporation that manages the Church-initiated Jeevan TV took a dramatic turn three days ago when its shareholders in an extraordinary general body meeting expelled their chairperson Archbishop Andrews Thazhath of Trichur with immediate effect.

They also removed their vice-chairperson and board member, retired Archbishop Jacob Thoomkuzhy of Trichur.

A section of shareholders supporting the prelates approached the High Court to stay the decision. However, a two-judge bench rejected the petition that helped the board to implement its decision from yesterday.

Trichur Syro-Malabar archdiocese started the television channel 10 years ago with then Archbishop Thoomkuzhy as the founding member and chairman. Later the company went public with a paid-up capital of 250 million rupees (US$4.55 million).

The tug of war between the clergy and lay directors started after the channel’s managing director, Baby Mathew, tried to take over the company. Mathew, a leading player in Kerala’s tourism sector, said the shareholders took the decision to remove the prelates to ensure professional quality.

He also claimed that controls over 60 percent of shares of the company and that 98.74 percent of shareholders attended the AGM.

An insider of the company, who asked not to be named, said the boardroom war began a year ago.

“The managing director outsmarted the Church leaders by acquiring shares of the company," he said. "Now he has a majority of shares in his control and the clergy has become a minority in the company.”

However, the Laity Commission of the Syro-Malabar Church has decided to fight the prelates’ sacking from the board, with its secretary V.C. Sebastian calling it illegal and arbitrary.

“We would approach the High Court against the order," he said. "Jeevan TV was founded by the Church and we will use all legal platforms to fight the expulsion.”

The lay leaders also said the commission would convene further meetings of shareholders to mobilize opinion against the decision.

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