Court criticizes police for go-slow fraud investigation of CSI moderator

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An Indian court has criticized the police for the diltory pace of their investigation into corruption charges leveled against the moderator of the Church of South India, the Most Rev. A. Dharmaraj Rasalam.

Kerala High Court Justice  PV Kunhikrishnan asked police why their investigation into the sale of admissions to a church-run medical school had so far only looked at low-level employees. “Why is there no investigation against big sharks? The Crime Branch is only after the employees. The lack of action against the main defendants is worrying. One to three accused should be investigated immediately,” said the judge in open court according to a report published in the Hindustan Times.

In August 2019 the Tamil Nadu medical education commission recommended criminal charges be filed against Bishop Rasalam, the Bishop in South Kerala, and officials from the Dr. Somervell Memorial CSI Medical College, Karakonam, for selling admission places to aspiring medical students. 

The investigation was launched after 24 students claimed they had been promised a place in the medical school after paying upwards of ₹6 million (approximately $84,000) for a place in the MBBS, BDS or MD programs. “All the office-bearers” of the diocese and school “ were fully aware of the situation and virtually it was wilful cheating,” the findings stated.

The 2019 referral for prosecution followed a July 2011 investigation by an Indian television network over admissions to Somervell Medical College. The Asianet broadcasting network reported that it obtained a list of 50 students admitted to the church-affiliated medical college located on the grounds of the London Missionary Society hospital in Karakonam.  However, the admissions list was drawn up two days before students sat for their entrance exams.

A reporter for Asianet, posing as an official of the Church of South India (CSI), contacted the students on the list and learned that each had made cash payments for a place in the college.  However, the payments were not considered tuition payments and were “off the books.”

The 2011 cash for admissions scandal broke one week before Bishop Rasalam was consecrated. The state government asked the Tamil Nadu medical education board to investigate, which led to the finding that the corrupt practices unveiled in 2011 continued under the new bishop. In 2019 Bishop Rasalam was elected moderator of the Church of South India.

A second fraud case was brought against school officials and Bishop Rasalam last year accusing them of forging community certificates to help students gain admission to the school.

Under the Indian medical system, students from the local state are given preference in admission. A television station filmed a school official haggling with the parents of a prospective student over the cost of a forged residency certificate. The complaint led the high court to cancel the admission of 11 medical students for submitting fake community certificates.