Corruption watchdogs in India have asked the government to seize the passport of the Moderator of the Church of South India, preventing him from traveling to this month’s Lambeth Conference. The CSITA Stakeholders Association claims the Most Rev. A. Dharmaraj Rasalam will not return to India to escape prosecution on 13 criminal cases of fraud and theft of church assets.
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.
A second fraud case was brought against school officials and Bishop Rasalam in 2020 raccusing 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.
In March 2022 the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) – India’s top law enforcement agency, recommended an investigation into Bishop Rasalam for allegedly pledging $2.5 million in church assets to the Canara Bank in Thiruvananthapuram without church approval and pocketing the proceeds.
CSITA Stakeholders Association general-secretary Jacob Mathew told The New Indian Express that Bishop Rasalam was “going to the UK to attend the Lambeth Conference held once in 10 years at the University of Kent, Canterbury Cathedral and the Lambeth Palace from July 26 to August 8. The conference has been convened by the Archbishop of Canterbury. It is learnt that they will not return to India, so as to avoid the criminal cases pending against them. They have enough support from the foreign churches to keep away from our judicial system.”
Mr. Matthews has urged the ministry of external affairs and the director general of prosecutions to intervene to prevent Bishop Rasalam from fleeing abroad. Through his attorneys the bishop has denied all wrong doing.