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Supreme Court bans Church of South India’s Synod election

A court-appointed panel holds power in the crisis-ridden second-largest Protestant denomination in the country
Members of the Church of South India at a function to seek social justice for the downtrodden.

Members of the Church of South India at a function to seek social justice for the downtrodden. (Photo:csi1947.com)

Published: May 24, 2024 12:05 PM GMT
Updated: May 27, 2024 04:27 AM GMT

India's Supreme Court has banned holding elections to the crisis-ridden Church of South India’s synod and appointing diocesan councils.

The top court on May 22 restrained the court-appointed administrators of the Church from holding elections to the now-defunct Synod of the second-largest Protestant denomination in India.

The Church, headquartered in Chennai, has over 4 million followers scattered across 24 dioceses in India and neighboring Sri Lanka.

The Madras High Court in Chennai, the capital of southern Tamil Nadu, on April 12 appointed retired Justices R Balasubramanian and V Bharathidasan as administrators of the Church.

The high court has given the administrators powers to handle the Church's finances and told them to conduct elections to the Synod.

The court intervened after a section of the laity alleged corruption charges against former Synod moderator Bishop Dharmaraj Rasalam.

"We are not setting aside the appointment of the administrators. We are saying they will not take any decision,” clarified the Supreme Court.

The High Court has allowed the administrators to appoint members to respective diocesan councils at “the earliest possible opportunity.”

The court-appointed administrators took charge on April 18 and banned the treasurer from executing financial transactions.

In 2022, the laity moved the High Court against Rasalam, and the court removed him from the post in September last year.

The petitioners have accused him and the Synod under him of arbitrarily amending the Church's constitution.

They expressed their inability to remove him from office because the Church lacked a law to remove the moderator.

The petitioners have alleged that ten criminal cases are pending against the moderator.

The CSI was formed in 1947 after India’s independence from Britain as a union of all Protestant denominations.

Its counterpart in north India is the Church of North India (CNI), which inherited a significant portion of the Anglican Church's assets after independence.

The Supreme Court will take up the case after its summer vacation, which started on May 20. The court is scheduled to resume its sitting on July 8.

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