Police books Cardinal Mar George Alencherry and two priests in church land row

Kochi March 13: The police on Monday  booked Cardinal Mar George Alencherry, head of the Syro-Malabar Church,  and three others for the land deal fraud that runs into crores of rupees.
A  single bench of Justice Kemal Pasha of the High Court had ordered the police to register an FIR against the cardinal, priests Joshy Puthuva and Sebastian Vadakkump- adan, and middleman Saju Varghese on a petition filed by Shine Varghese from Cherthala.
The cardinal  and the three others have been charged under various sections of the Indian Penal Code, including sections 120b (criminal conspiracy), 405, 406 (criminal breach of trust) and 420 (cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property),  the police said. The cardinal is the first accused in the case.
The petitioner had approached the High Court  saying that the Ernakulam central police had not registered an FIR on his complaint against the cardinal and others over the controversial land deal in the Ernakulam – Angamaly archdiocese.
The court had castigated the police for their  inaction. Meanwhile, the cardinal and the other accused moved separate appeals in the High Court against the  order of the single bench.  
The police are unlikely to take any further action till  the High Court  gives its order on the appeals filed by the accused.   
The police had sought the legal opinion of director- general of prosecution before registering the FIR. Following the delay in registering the case,  the petitioner and a section of laity in the Church had threatened to move a contempt of court petition against the police.
During the hearing, the court rejected the arguments that only the pope could initiate action against the cardinal and observed that the head of the Church was subject to the law of the land.
The archbishop is only a custodian of the Church properties,  it observed. Earlier, the two inquiry commissions constituted by the cardinal and the synod had  found serious lapses in the land deal.
Based on the report of the bishops’ inquiry panel appointed by the synod, the powers of the cardinal have been delegated to the auxiliary bishop.