Bishop may act only as caretaker till new appointment: Chennai HC

Holding that Synod is the supreme authority of the Church of South India (CSI), the Madras high court has said the incumbent bishop of Madras Diocese could continue only as a caretaker bishop until the new appointment is made.

A ruling to this effect was given by a division bench comprising Justice M Chockalingam and Justice R Subbiah, on a matter relating to the continuation of V Devasahayam (60) as bishop of CSI beyond May 1, when his 10-year stint ended.

It all began with the Laity Association filing a civil suit in the high court to restrain Devasahayam from continuing in the post beyond May 1. It also sought commencement of election process to elect a new bishop. It also referred to a communication from the CSI moderator, stating that the bishop's term would end on May 1 and that he could continue as caretaker bishop of CSI until a new bishop takes over.

The bishop, on his part, filed a suit stating that as per the CSI constitution he could continue until age 65, and that he should not be restrained from holding the post beyond May 1. After a single judge upheld the case of the bishop, the present appeals were preferred by the Executive Committee of the Synod and JW Gladstone, moderator of CSI.

Allowing the appeals, the division bench said that as per clause 13 of chapter IX of the CSI constitution, Synod was the supreme governing and legislative body of the CSI, and it was the final authority in all matters pertaining to the church. In 1999, it was the Synod which unanimously decided to restrict the period of appointment for 10 years. "It has made the appointment for only 10 years, and this was also approved subsequently and informed to bishop Devasahayam. He also gave his consent in writing...Having accepted the appointment for a period of 10 years, now he cannot be permitted to say that he would continue till 65 years of age..."

Also, Devasahayam, who filed the suit against the Synod, did not seek the court's permission to sue an unincorporated body such as the Synod and hence the suit itself was not maintainable, the judges said. They then permitted Devasahayam to continue as caretaker bishop of the Madras Diocese until a new appointment is made.

Source: Times of India

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