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CSI ordered to open its books: The Church of England Newspaper, March 30, 2012 p 7. March 29, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of South India, Corruption.

Anti-corruption activists scored a significant legal victory in India after the Madras high court ruled the trust that holds the assets of the Church of South India (CSI) was a corporation under the Companies Act and must submit is financial accounts for inspection.

In a ruling dated 1 March 2012 but released on 22 March, Justice S. Rajeswaran held the Church of South India Trust Association (CSITA) must turn over its records to the government’s Registrar of Companies (RoC) for inspection.  A spokesman for the CCC (Christ Centered Campaign) applauded the decision saying the anti-corruption coalition believed that in light of the church’s stonewalling of past government queries into the misuse of funds, “there is little doubt the RoC will now conduct an aggressive inspection of the CSITA which will result in a lot of skeletons tumbling out of its cupboard.”

Long plagued by financial scandals only “8 or 9” of the CSI’s 21 current bishops are untainted by corruption charges, the CCC has reported.  Lay leaders have pushed for greater transparency from the bishops and executive committee of the general synod, but complain of being stymied by the church.

On 1 Feb 2010, Dr. John Dorai, the general secretary of the CSITA Beneficiaries Association – a lay advocacy group in the church – filed a complaint requesting the RoC examine the accounts of the CSITA.  The CSITA, through the its secretary, M.M. Philip – who also serves as General Secretary of the CSI – responded by saying Dr. Dorai had no standing to press his case.

“The complainant Mr John S. Dorai is not a member of the CSITA and is a stranger and as such any representation by a stranger is void,” Mr. Philip told the RoC and stated the complaint should be “brushed aside and needs to be disposed off without any merit.”  However, on 1 Aug 2011, the RoC upheld Dr. Doria’s request for an inspection and ordered the CSITA to open its books to government inspectors on 12 Sept 2011.

The CSI asked for a week’s delay, and then filed a motion with the Madras High Court and received an injunction forbidding the RoC to investigate the church’s trust holdings.

In his ruling lifting the stay, Justice Rajeswaran held the CSITA was subject to the rules of the Companies Act.  The arguments offered by counsel for CSITA were of no merits,” the court held, adding that it was the “duty of the directors and other officers or the employees of the company to provide all the assistance for such inspection of the records.”

The judge agreed with the RoC that the CSITA “is a habitual defaulter in filing the statutory returns in time and also not in the habit of replying to the genuine queries raised by the first respondent regarding the complaints received against the company.”

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

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