IndianExpose reports on the SFIO focus on the Church of South India Trust Association (CSITA) for financial irregularities, misappropriation of Church funds and selling away of Church lands.
The Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA) had ordered the investigation of all 23 dioceses in the country under the Church of South India to the Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO) in 2017. The SFIO investigations still continue.
What is CSITA?
Church of South India Trust Association was constituted as a legal holding body of the movable and immovable properties of the Church of South India.
The CSI-TA was registered in September, 1947 under Section 26 of the Indian Companies Act 1913 (now Section 25 of the Indian Companies Act 1956) as a Religious and Charitable Company which has no business character and with no profit motive. The properties of the Churches in Union have been transferred to CSI-TA.
The Jurisdiction of the CSI-TA covers the 21 Dioceses spread over the four Southern States of Andra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu, including the Union Territory Puducherry.
Why is SFIO investigating CSITA?
Bishop Govada Dyvasirvadam was arrested in January last year on allegations of misappropriating church funds to the tune of hundreds of crores. During the investigation, the AP CID officials had found that there were irregularities in selling away of the CSITA’s land, misuse of deposits and foreign funds.
According to the FIR, the Bishop allegedly committed the following crimes punishable under the Indian Penal Code: i) dishonesty, ii) misappropriation of property, iii) criminal breach of trust, iv) criminal breach of trust by a public servant, v) cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property, vi) falsification of accounts, vii) acts done by several persons together in furtherance of a common intention.–i.e. when a criminal act is done by several persons in furtherance of the common intention of all, each of such persons is liable for that act in the same manner as if it were done by him alone.
This action against Church of South India Trust Association commenced after
B. Yohan, former secretary of the Krishna-Godavari diocese had launched a complaint on 13 October 2017 against the bishop to the Crime Branch of the CID (CB-CID) in Hyderabad.
The charges are; that the bishop used his power to effect an unauthorised sale of church property and embezzle over USD 8 crore for his personal use.
CSTIA under SFIO lens since 2016
The Registrar of Companies in Madras had been inspecting the CSITA’s operations and found them in breach of Company laws and that the company is run for a fraudulent and unlawful purpose.
RoC Madras on January 12, 2016 submitted a 45-page report MoCA recommending to order an investigating by SFIO.
SFIO wrote to the CSITA under the mandate of the Ministry of Corporate Affairs ordering them to submit copies of documents/information of the following to the Inspector and Investigating Officer
This official mandate given to SFIO to investigate the external and internal management affairs was ‘stayed’ by the Andhra Pradesh High Court by a suit (case no. WP 38841/2016) filed by the administrators of the CSITA.
The case to an end with the court ruling on 16 November 2017 that the Ministry of Corporate Affairs should issue a fresh order to the SFIO so that it could restart its investigation on the CSITA.
CSITA petitioned the High Court of Madras, with a prayer (WP 32457/2017 & WMP 35754/2017) to quash the order and to further quash the comprehensive Report produced by the RoC, Madras dated 12 January 2016 which recommended the investigation by the SFIO. It was argued that the Report of the Registrar was not enough to order an investigation and the Central Government ought to have formed its own opinion before ordering such an investigations by the SFIO.
The Madras High Court opined “Any suit to quash the order of 22 February 2018 before the Government Order is premature.”
Not relenting on this issue Writ Appeals were filed against the order dated 22.02.2018 made in WP32457/2017 by a learned Single Judge. The Judge who heard the petition to quash the order of 22 February 2018 issued an Order against the writ petition and writ appeals that they are not at all maintainable. At this stage, the consequential order passed by the Joint Director, Ministry of Corporate Affairs, New Delhi dated 07.05.2018 to relaunch the investigation by the SFIO is still effective and permissible under law.
As of today, the SFIO investigations continue into the financial irregularities of CSITA.2017-18