Permission denied to sell Anglican church properties in Mumbai

Published 11 November 2009  |  
Church properties belonging to the Anglican community in Mumbai cannot be sold by those in possession of them, according to the ruling of Maharashtra charity commissioner N V Deshmukh.

Rejecting an application of the Bombay Diocesan Trusts Association (BDTA) seeking permission to sell the transfer of development rights (TDR) of two of its churches amid much controversy, Deshmukh said institutions running the churches are merely custodians of the land and it is to be used only for religious and educational purposes.

"The property was allotted for the specific purpose of religious worship of the established Church of England and for no other purpose. The document prohibits any change in usage other than for religious worship. As per the indenture, in case the property is used for other purposes, the grant shall cease and hereafter the property shall become absolutely the property of the secretary of the state," Deshmukh said in his order, quoted by a DNA report.

According to sources, there are over 4,000 church properties in Mumbai managed by BTDA which is formed by several small and big trusts. The BDTA's claim that the redevelopment of its properties is needed to maintain churches is strongly opposed by the parishioners who suspect the trust's motives.

"The historic judgment by the charity commissioner has delighted all parishioners, worshippers, and the entire Christian community," Cyril Dara, a church activist, was quoted saying. "All fraudulent deals are satanic and all the so-called illegal custodian trustees of BDTA are liable for criminal action and prosecution."

Sandeep Gaikwad, president, All-India Legal Committee People's Synod, CNI, says there is a nexus between the BDTA and bishops for making crores of rupees. "We strongly condemn the anti-Christ activities of the bishop of Mumbai, CNI priests, and the trustees of the BDTA hatching a conspiracy to demolish our churches," he said.

The charity commissioner's order has come just a few months after the state government termed the acts of selling off church properties as a "big scam''.

The trust, meanwhile, is to challenge the charity commissioner's order in the High Court.

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