Moderator of the Church of South India blocked from leaving India over fraud allegations

Dharmaraj Rasalam detained at Thiruvananthapuram international airport as he was about to depart for the 2022 Lambeth Conference


The Moderator of the Church of South India has been questioned by police in connection over allegations of criminal fraud. On 25 July 2022 the Most Rev. A. Dharmaraj Rasalam was detained at Thiruvananthapuram international airport as he was about to depart for London to attend the 2022 Lambeth Conference by immigration authorities and turned over to officers of the Enforcement Directorate from the Federal Revenue Department.

His detention comes the day after ED officers raided the offices of the diocese of South Kerala and the bishop’s home looking for evidence of corruption. Earlier this month anti-corruption activists asked the Indian government to block the bishop’s departure for Lambeth. The CSITA Stakeholders Association claimed Bishop Rasalam would not return to India so as 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.