Bishop's rights and powers end with death, Bombay High Court rules

 

Bishop's rights and powers end with death, Bombay High Court rules

Author: 

George Conger

The Bombay High Court has handed down an employment law decision arising from a dispute between the Church of North India and the family of a deposed bishop, holding a personal action dies with the person, blocking the estate of a litigant in an employment and contract suit from continuing the case after his death. On 29 May 2001 the Rt. Rev. Prem Kumar Dhotekar was elected bishop in Nagpur by the diocesan synod. On 29 Jan 2004 he was deposed from office by the synod the CNI the Bishop of Phulbani Diocese for participating in the consecration ceremony of Metropolitan K.P. Yohannan of the Believer's Church of India. The CNI Synod removed the two bishops from office for transmitting Anglican orders to a bishop of a non-Anglican church.  Bishop Dhotekar responded by filing a complaint in the civil courts alleging the decision to oust him was part of a political conspiracy between competing factions within the church. Bishop Dhotekar died on 11 Nov 2012 and his wife and children filed a motion with the court asking they be substituted as litigants. The Church of North India did not challenge the motion and a lower court granted the motion on 14 June 2013. The CNI appealed the decision arguing the benefits of employment and their associated rights inured to the individual and were not property of his estate. Under the diocese’s articles of association, church attorneys argued, the powers of a bishop ceased upon his death or discharge from office. Last month the High Court found in its favour, ruling the addition of new litigants was void ab initio. "The position being held by the Bishop was purely personal in nature. The application filed at the instance of legal heirs couldn't have been entertained by the civil court as the suit abated after his death. The respondents couldn't have been permitted to prosecute proceedings as legal heirs, on behalf of the original plaintiff. Thus, the order passed by the civil judge is clearly untenable and unsustainable," Justice Prasanna Varale ruled.

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