HC stays criminal proceedings against Church of South India Trust Association
The High Court of Karnataka has stayed till November 4 the criminal proceedings against the Church of South India Trust Association (CSITA) initiated by the city police and the provisional attachment of bank deposits by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on the allegation that the CSITA is unlawfully occupying the land of All Saints’ Church, Hosur Road, and received compensation from the BMRCL though the land actually belonging to the Defence authorities.
Justice Suraj Govindaraj passed the interim order on a petition filed by the CSITA questioning the legality of the criminal case registered by the city police on August 17, 2019 and the attachment of deposits of ₹59.52 crore by the ED on September 8, 2020.
The criminal proceedings were initiated based on the complaint filed by Indian Army’s Quartermaster, CMP Centre and School, Bengaluru, alleging that the CSITA unlawfully received compensation for land, measuring about 7426.886 sq.m acquired under Karnataka Industrial Areas Development Act for the benefit of Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Ltd. (BMRCL).
Granted in 1884
It was contended on behalf of the petitioner that land with certain other land were granted to Lord Bishop and Archdeacon of Madras in 1884 by the president at the Court of His Highness, the Maharaja of Mysore, under the authority vested in him by the government of India, and no rents were required to be paid to the government.
The Indian Churches Trustees (ICT) took over the land of All Saints’ Church in 1929 following enactment of Indian Churches Act, 1927. Though the Bangalore Civil Station and Bangalore Military Area were restored to Maharaja of Mysore after Indian independence in 1947, the land granted by the crown prior to retrocession were recognised as valid grant, the petitioner claimed while contending the ICT, which owned title over the land, in 1980 appointed the CSITA as new trustees.
It was also pointed out in the petition that the Defence authorities never raised any objection or claimed the land even when a portion of the land was given for Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board in 1972 for construction of a water reservoir.
The petitioner also contended that the Defence authorities had not objected even when the notification for acquiring portion of the All Saints’ Church land for metro project was issued in March 2017 and disbursal of part payment of compensation to petitioner was made in April 2019. The Defence authorities raised objection for the first time in July 2019 and complaint with the police was lodged without waiting for the petitioner’s response.