HC sentences TN bishop to 15 days' imprisonment

By PTI Published on Jul 05, 2018 10:09 AM IST

Madurai: The Madras High Court has sentenced a bishop to 15 days' imprisonment in "civil prison" for flouting the court's orders over conduct of elections to a diocese in southern Tamilnadu.

Justice M V Muralidharan held the bishop of the CSI Diocese of Nazareth in Thoothukudi district, S E C Devasahayam, guilty of civil contempt for wilful disobedience of the court order and also slapped a fine of Rs 5,000.

Allowing a contempt petition filed by four members of the diocese, the judge also set aside the first phase of elections held 17 June, three days after the court had stayed the process.

He held the bishop guilty on two counts of conducting the elections to diocese despite a stay order issued by the court and for not including the names of the four petitioners in the voters' list, as directed.

The judge, however, said the sentences would run concurrently.

He also sentenced the treasurer and election officer of the diocese, D Mohan Arumainayagam, to 15 days' imprisonment in "civil prison" and imposed a fine of Rs 5,000 for closing the voters list and excluding the names of the petitioners despite the court order.

The judge stayed the sentence for two weeks on the basis of a representation by the counsel for the contemnors to enable them file an appeal against his order.

The petitioners had originally filed a suit against removal of their names from the voters list and also sought an injunction against conduct of elections.

However, Justice Muralidharan dropped contempt charges against the election officer for conducting the elections, saying he had informed the bishop about the stay granted by the High Court and also issued public a notice. Hence, he could not be blamed.

The judge rejected the unconditional apology made by the bishop as not bona fide. He noted that the court had ordered on 14 June not to conduct the elections.

Despite a public notice issued in newspapers, the bishop went ahead with the first phase of elections brushing aside the request of a majority of the members of the diocese.

Besides, the election officer had also advised him not to go ahead with the polls. Setting aside the polls held 17 June, the judge appointed a retired district judge as the chief electoral officer for conducting the diocese elections afresh. He will be assisted by advocate C M Arumugam.