New Delhi/ Thiruvananthapuram: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Kerala has demanded that church properties, especially that of the Catholic church, be regulated by a law as the clamour for such a legislation has erupted from within the Christian community in the Left-ruled state.

The former law reforms commission headed by Justice VR Krishna had proposed the Kerala Church Properties and Institutions Trust Bill in 2009. It was intended to address the churches’ allegedly questionable ways of acquiring huge properties and their mismanagement. Barring agricultural land, the church is the largest private land-holder in India.

The Kerala BJP told MyNation that the proposal had since been shelved by state governments for vote bank politics.

While other church bodies did not get fazed much, Kerala BJP’s intellectual cell convenor TG Mohandas alleged that the Catholic church was extremely vociferous in its opposition to the proposed law as they had acquired most of their land by flouting or circumventing laws.

“We welcome the demand for a law to regulate the affairs of churches. The Krishna commission had said that there are almost 90 archaic laws in Kerala, pertaining to Travancore and Kochi, that need to be repealed, and new laws made. Under that, he had said that churches be brought under a common authority and their affairs be conducted in a transparent manner,” Mohandas told MyNation.

“The law had proposed that churches be brought under one authority that will audit their affairs every year and look into the management of their properties,” he added.

“This campaign started in the backdrop of the property dispute that hit the church in recent times. The church has unbridled authority over the property they own. Church property ultimately belongs to the Pope, not to the members of the community; no auditing is done and nothing can be asked. The Pope is the ultimate authority, who has delegated his powers to the Archbishop, then to other Bishops and then normal padres. The community does not have any say in the management of the properties and does not get anything,” Mohandas said.

The recent attack has come from within. The issue was raised by the All Kerala Church Act Action Council and Malamkara Action Council for Church Act Bill Implementation that staged a dharna on May 22 this year in Thiruvananthapuram.

These organisations contended that the Church Act needed to be passed by the state legislature which proposed the establishment of democratically-elected fora on which the laity would sit and manage the properties of the church. They held that a canonical law which had roots in foreign soil could not effectively be implemented in India in this respect.