Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church: SC for Centre, Kerala stand on obligatory sacramental confessions

New Delhi, December 14

The Supreme Court on Monday sought responses from Centre and the Kerala Government on a plea challenging the validity of alleged practice of “forced, compulsory and mandatory” sacramental confessions in the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church.

A Bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde, which was initially of the view that the plea challenging the religious practice should be heard by the Kerala High Court, later issued notice on being apprised that the apex court, in a judgement of 2017, had restrained all civil courts and the high court from entertaining any dispute related to the 1934 Constitution of Malankara Association.

The Bench, also comprising justices A S Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian, heard the matter through video conferencing.

Senior advocate Sanjay Parikh, appearing for Mathew T Mathachan and two others who are the followers of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, opposed the practice of paid mandatory sacramental confessions.

“Petitioners are citizens of India and eternal members of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church…they are constrained move this writ petition …for protection of their fundamental right under Article 21 (right to life) of the Constitution including the human dignity against the practices of compulsory confession and mandatory payment of monies to their respective Parish churches under section 7, 8 and 10 of the 1934 Constitution of Malankara Association,” the plea said.

Terming the practice as “pernicious”, the plea said that the “forced, compulsory and mandatory confession” from every member both men and women has been causing several other problems including “sexual exploitation of women and blackmailing”.

It said that the plea has been filed in the top court directly due to the fact that as the 2017 judgement had restrained all civil courts and the Kerala High Court from passing any order related to the Constitution of Malankara Association.

“In the said judgement it has been inter alia held that the 1934 constitution is valid and binding upon the Parish churches. The practices which these churches are indulging in as per 1934 Constitution affecting human dignity have not been considered,” it said.

The plea, which has made the Churches as parties also besides the Union Ministry of Home Affairs and the State government, has sought a direction to restrain the churches from “removing any parishioners or striking off membership of parishioners for not making confession or not making any payments to the church, till the present writ petition is finally adjudicated”.

It has also sought a direction that no coercive action be taken by either removing the parishioners from the church or by “ex-communicating or ostracising them” in any manner, it said.

“Declare that the practice of compulsory and forced confession and mandatory payment of monies violates basic human rights and human dignity protected by the fundamental rights under Articles 21 and 25 (religious freedom) of the Constitution,” said the plea filed though lawyer Sanad Ramakrishnan. — PTI


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