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Church of South India Primate Faces Corruption Charges

Church of South India Primate Faces Corruption Charges
Former Primate spent time in jail for corruption
The CSI is engulfed in escalating and endemic corruption

By the Rev. Dr. Joseph Muthuraj
Special to Virtueonline
April 18, 2020

A Commission Report has levelled charges of bribery and corruption against the Anglican Moderator of the Church of South India, the Most Rev. Dharmaraj Rasalam.

Following an interrogation of 24 complainants it was revealed they had given substantial sums of money as bribes totalling three crore rupees ($400,000) to Bishop Rasalam and two other men to secure admission to the Medical College run by the South Kerala diocese. The admissions were denied and the money was not returned.

The Report stated; "On a consideration of the complaints, evidence and all the circumstances, the committee recommends the government under section 8(4) of Act of 2017 take appropriate steps against the college to refund the amount collected from the complainants and to initiate criminal proceedings against college officials and the office bearers, including Bishop Rassalam, Dr Bennet Abraham, and Sri Thankaraj in accordance with law."

There is a public perception that they are obtaining backing from some leading politicians and influential personalities in order to find escape routes to quash the complaints. It is not known if the Kerala Government took the Report seriously and if they are prepared to file a criminal case against the accused. It is suspected that the political parties do not want to antagonise the church and its leaders as they count on their votes when elections come around.

However, a young brigade has emerged locally to fight against the corruption and is pursuing the matter in the courts.

Because of their efforts, the Honourable Justice of the High Court in Ernakulam (Kerala State) issued an order on February 28, 2020 which reads: "Heard the learned Public Prosecutor on the progress made in the investigation. It is understood that there are about nine cases pending against the accused (Moderator Rasalam) and the total amount involved is more than Rupees three crores (Rs. 30,000,000 $400,000). Considering the enormity of the crime and the gravity of the offence, I find that it would be appropriate if the investigation of all these cases are entrusted to the Crime Branch, which is a specialised agency to investigate into similar crimes."

It is further claimed that the CSI Synod ignored the Supervisory Committee for Medical Education in Kerala Report (published 19 August 2019) when Archbishop Rasalam was the Chairman of the Medical College, Karakonam.

"It is a cause of much embarrassment forcing the church to hang its hang its head in shame."

A different set of petitioners took the matter to the Court of the Principal Sub-judge in Thiruvanathapuram (Kerala State) and obtained another order on 13 March 2020 which reads: "Hence an ad interim injunction is granted restricting and prohibiting defendants (namely Bp. Dharmaraj Rasalam, Bishop of South Kerala Diocese, Moderator Rasalam, the Church of South India, Dharmaraj Rasalam living in Bishop's House, the Secretary and Vice-Chairman of the South Kerala Diocese, Bp. Reuben Mark, the Deputy Moderator of the Church of South India and the two directors from the Church of South India Trust Association appointed to be the Financial Administrators of the South Kerala Diocese in the event of the crisis) from transferring/ withdrawing any amount from the eight accounts (1) Central Bank of India Ac. no.: 1442506925 (2) The State Bank of India Nathamcodu branch Ac.no.: 10347396414 (3) State Bank of India Vikas Bhavan Ac. no.: 57044140547 (4) South Indian Bank Ac.no.: 0721073000000100 (5) South Indian Bank Ac.no.: 0721081000000005 (6) South India Bank Ac. no.: 0721081000000002 (7) State Bank of India Ac.no.: 37890884911 (8) State Bank of India Ac. no.: 0034713737996] excepting for the purpose of monthly salary of the employees of the South Kerala Diocese, pension payment, payment of LIC pension and Gratuity, loan repayment to State Bank of India and other inevitable office expenses such as electricity charges, water charges etc until further orders." (Thiruvananthapuram 16 March 2020)

The coronavirus lockdown is hindering progress in the pursuit of justice in order to secure a suitable punishment for the Moderator Rasalam.

The CSI Synod that met in Trichirapalli (Trichy), South India in January of this year lost its hearing and speaking capacity "mechanically and unthinkingly" and surrendering their ethical authority to bishops and voted as they were told.

The Nomination committee chaired by the Karnataka Northern diocese bishop was a mockery of democracy and a smear on a free and fair choice of qualified candidates for the positions of Moderator, Deputy Moderator, General Secretary and Treasurer.

A number of candidates known for their illegal and corrupt activities in their own dioceses were picked by the committee and were presented to the Synod thereby giving members no alternative but to choose from the ones thrust upon them.

This electoral system was introduced by the former Moderator G. Dyvasirvadam in the final year of his tenure. He managed to extend his office for an additional year by raising the retirement age to 67 when he was in his final year in office.

The post of Moderator was gifted to Bishop Rasalam on a silver platter who was looking for a plank to save himself from 12 First Investigation Reports (FIRs) filed against him in various Police stations on charges of cheating and fraud with the additional seven cheating cases of bribery already registered in the courts.

The message from the Synod to Rasalam was; "We can help you to save yourself at the cost of the witness of the church so that you can swim through all your personal sins and transgressions now enthroned as the Moderator for 4 million members."

This ungodly decision has yielded ill-fated results causing serious damage to the reputation of the CSI, which is a constituent member of the Anglican Communion.

The Medico-mania as a route to making wealth began with the Moderator B. P. Sugandhar (2000-2008)

Minutes of the meeting of the Executive Committee of the Medical Council held on Thursday 31st January, 2002 at 11: 00 am in the Council Office of New Delhi written under the heading "Establishment of Christian Medical College, Dichpalli, Hyderabad Distt., Andhra Pradesh by Church of South India Trust Association Medak diocesan Education Society u/s 10 A of the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956."

The management of the hospital whose Chairman was the then Moderator of the CSI, Bishop Sugandhar made up temporary and low-quality arrangements and stage-managed to create an effect that the hospital had fulfilled all the infrastructural requirements for starting a medical college, but they were found to be totally inadequate and faulty by the inspection team.

It was observed that though the Dichpalli hospital had acquired 300 beds, it had yet to become adequately and properly functional. It was reported that on the day of inspection, nearly 70% beds were occupied. However, this proved unacceptable for the following reasons:

The minutes read: "Most of the patients were admitted a day or two before the inspection day and on scrutiny it was found that most of the patients did not complete the formalities of indoor admission. (They had not followed the clinical procedure for hospitalisation. This meant that they were asked simply to occupy the beds in the event of the inspection merely to make up the required number).

The Inspection team noted, "Most of the persons and children who were admitted in various wards belonged to either orphanages or some of their other institutions & they appeared to be healthy." (The eye-witnesses told me when I visited the hospital that the Moderator had asked the presbyters of Medak diocese to occupy the beds to act as though they were sick patients).

The minutes further observed, "On discussion with the Principal and the present Head of the Department of Surgery who was earlier Principal, it was found that the (real) bed occupancy was only about 20%." So, the rest...

The final paragraph in the minutes stated: "The Executive Committee decided to recommend to the Central Government NOT to issue Letter of Intent for establishment of Medical College at Dichpalli, Nizambad Distt., Andhra Pradesh by Church of South India Trust Association Medak Diocesan Education Society u/s 10A of the Indian Medican Council Act, 1956".

The area in Dichpally is estimated at 42 acres originally belonging to the Church of South India Trust Association (CISTA). At the beginning of the century the Moderator Sugandhar who was also a member of the Board of Directors and who later assumed the chairmanship of the CSITA managed to register the 42 acre lands as a 'gift' made out to an organisation he called "The CSITA Medak Diocesan Educational Society" of which he was also the President and his family members and loyalists were members. The lands in Dichpalli were taken over from the CSITA under the guise of a 'gift deed' were sold to a company by the present bishop of Medak. No one knows for how much, or to which accounts the money was deposited.

former Moderator Dyvasirvadam (2012-2017) was sent to prison by the courts in January 2018

A petitioner filed a Writ Petition in the year 2017 against the misdeeds of and the property theft allegedly committed by the former Moderator G. Dyvasirvadam appealed (no. 10884 of 2019) to speed up the investigation as it has taken three years with little progress being made. The High Court of Andhra Pradesh at Amaravathi hearing the appeal ordered on February 2, 2020 that as against the grievance of the petitioner that there is no progress in the investigation in the criminal case involving the former moderator G. Dyvasirvadam by the Director General of Police of the Crime Investigation Department. The Director was instructed by the court that he would submit that the results of the investigation of the 28 witnesses who were examined and some 20 Bank accounts of the CSI Krishna-Godavari Diocese which were collected and audited by the Crime Investigation auditor and adding to them the Income Tax returns of Dyvasirvadam. The final report should be filed at the earliest.

The CSI has adjusted itself to corruption in such a manner that it is accepted 'as a way of life', Unscrupulous elements in the country's medical-education sector appear to be brazenly circumventing all admission rules by pre-blocking seats for low-ranking medical aspirants in exchange for heavy donations, an India Today investigation found. Private colleges may ask for one-off "capitation fees," separate from fees for tuition and maintenance. Often paid by parents, compulsory donations that are illegal and may exceed 10 million rupees ($150,000).

When these Moderators are caught by the law on corruption charges with evidence, it is twisted as a conspiracy from some troublemakers and anti-church people. They create sympathy and compassion from people and use it as a shield for immunity from their corrupt dealings. Persons who speak and write against it are viewed with suspicion with people walking away from his presence as if he is carrying a Coronavirus.

The former moderator was seen preaching on You Tube during Holy Week comparing his 40 days (44 days precisely!) in prison on charges of misappropriation of church funds and illegal sale of church lands worth more than 500 crores ($653,163) with the biblical narratives of Noah and the 40 days of rain, the Israelites' journey for 40 years and Jesus' temptation of 40 days in the wilderness. He hinted that his time in prison was a 'quarantine' (meaning 40 days, according to him) his experience of spending time with God, similar to those of Moses staying in the mount Horeb for 40 days and nights and Elijah struggling in loneliness for 40 days. God has a spiritual purpose in Elijah's quarantine experience preparing him to make another prophet and a king, said Dyva. The jailed Moderator expected his listeners to assume that he was being prepared by God to identify the successors to run the CSI.

The CSI has lost its direction and there is no able and moral leadership on which the drifting ship can anchor. The CSI has a by-gone and a retired Moderator who went to prison and who will go there again as the investigation to prepare a charge-sheet against him is firmly on. In 2020, the Moderator while he is in office might go to prison during the next three years’ time if there was no miscarriage of justice. The next Moderator candidate will be someone who already went to prison or someone convicted and punished by the court for committing crimes such as drunken driving and other misbehaviours.

Only a miracle can save the CSI today!

The Rev. Dr. J. G. Muthuraj, is a former member of St. John's College, Durham where he received his PhD. He is a historian of the CSI where he is calling for legal reforms in the management of its Trust Association. He has been one of the strongest voices in the global theological communion appealing for a renewal of the Episcopacy to bring an end to the corruption in the Church of South India.

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