High Court stays enforcement action against Church of South India Trust Association

0
44

The Karnataka High Court has stayed an investigation by the Indian Ministy of Finance into the Church of South India Trust Association for allegedly defrauding the government.

The Indian Ministry of Finance has placed a lien on the bank accounts belonging to the Church of South India Trust Association (CSITA) for having allegedly sold land it had leased from the government, claiming it was church property.

On 9 September 2020 the Enforcement Directorate of the Department of Revenue of the Ministry of Finance in Bengaluru announced it had attached fixed deposits belonging to the CSITA  held at the State Bank of India worth Rs600 million ($8.17 million) under provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002.

In Aug 2019, the Defence Ministry filed a complaint with public prosecutors alleging the CSITA sold a strip of land to the Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Limited (BMRCL) and Karnataka Industrial Areas Development Board (KIADB) for Rs600 million. The land was used to construct a subway station on Bengalaru’s Red Line from Dairy Circle to Nagawara. 

A survey conducted by the Ministry of Defence found the Quartermaster General’s office of the Indian Army had leased the land to the Anglican Church in three leaseholds dated 1865, 1884, and 1898 but had not granted title to the church. The Ministry of Defence demanded compensation for the leased property prompting the Ministry of Finance to place a lien on the sale proceeds. 

However, at a court hearing this week attorneys for the CSITA presented title deeds dating from 1884 to the court to show the Maharaja of Mysuru gave the land to the Church of England in India.

This week’s court ruling leaves the monetary lien against the CSITA in place but stayed its enforcement. A hearing has been scheduled for 4 Nov 2020 to allow the Ministry of Finance to dispute the 1884 title deed.