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Madras HC grants bail to Kerala Bishop, priests in illegal sand mining case

- February 15, 2022

Chennai, Feb 15 (BPNS)

The Madurai bench of the Madras High court on Tuesday granted bail to Bishop Samuel Mar Irenios, head of the Syro –Malankara Diocese of Pathanamthitta, Kerala, and five other priests in a case related to illegal sand mining at the property of the diocese at Tirunelveli district.

The Bishop and five priests including the Vicar General were arrested by the Tamil Nadu Crime Branch CB-CID on 6th February 2022.  Bishop Irenios and Father Jose Chamkala were admitted to Tirunelveli Medical College after they complained of chest pain and giddiness. The rest of the priests were lodged in Nanguneri jail.

The CB-CID charged that the Pathanamthitta diocese has 300 acres of land at Pottal near Kallidakurichi in Tirunelveli district. The land was given on a five-year lease to one Manuel George of Kottayam from 2019 onwards.

The charge was that Manuel George obtained a license for manufacturing M- sand at the property but lifted sand from Vandal Odai that does not have a title deed and sold the sand with the connivance of officials of revenue and police. After environmentalists raised complaints, the Cheranmahadevi Sub collector Pratik Tayal conducted an inspection and found that 27774 cubic metres of river sand has been illegally lifted. A fine of Rs 9.57 crore was slapped against the Malankara diocese who are the owners of the property.

On Wednesday, February 9th the bail application of the Bishop and other priests was rejected by the Judicial Magistrate 1 (In-charge) Kadarkarai in Tirunelveli.

The Advocate for the diocese argued that the owners of the land including Bishop Irenios and others were not able to inspect the property near Pottal since March 2019 due to Covid -19. The advocate also argued that George seized this opportunity and illegally mined the sand.

The diocese also said that the lease agreement for the property with Manuel George will be terminated as he breached the terms of the lease agreement.

The Madurai bench of the Madras high court granted bail to Bishop Mar Samuel Irenios and other priests.