Cordel Church Scam: Judicial Corruption
In our earlier report “Cordel Church Scam: Another Can of Worms?” dated 28th of April 2017, we had exposed a mega scam from Cordel Church, Mangaluru, Karnataka, which had shaken the conscience of the Christian laity.
Padre Valerian Pinto, the parish priest of Cordel Church sanctioned 21 projects to be constructed within the Cordel Church premises and collected huge sums of money from the general public. However instead of using the money for the said purpose, it was siphoned off to his personal accounts. Duplicate bills and vouchers amounting to more than five crores were forged. This figure was estimated based on the forged duplicate expenditure bills. If the loot in income side is taken, it could perhaps be many folds of this estimate.
The Bishop who was overseeing the church administration stepped in and tried his best to hush up the matter and confuse the issue. He used the powers vested in him by the Church to protect the accused Padre. Despite church members demanding justice, the Bishop took no action. In fact it is quite likely that he may have received a share in the misappropriated money, and in a surprising twist the Bishop voluntarily returned Rs. 15 Lakh to the Church from the misappropriated money. A five member Commission of Enquiry was constituted by the Cordel Church. This committee after a painstaking inquiry and verification of accounts found the Padre guilty of misappropriation. In other words, there was compelling evidence to indicate the Padre Valerian Pinto was guilty of fraud and in fact Padre Victor Machado, the current Parish Priest of Cordel Church had announced during the Sunday mass in July 2016 that Padre Valerian Pinto had been proven guilty of misappropriation by the Commission of Enquiry. The guilty Padre had apparently admitted to his guilt and had apologized in writing and assured to pay back the amount.
Open and shut case, right?
Apparently not. One member made a complaint to the police. The effort was in vain and there is reason to believe that there was pressure on the police not to act was clearly visible.
Then Robert Rosario, a social activist from Mangaluru, moved to the court with private complaint no 75/2017 in the court of JMFC II Mangalore. There were a total of 11 accused, including padre Valerian Pinto, Bishop Aloysius Paul, and advocate M P Noronha. Surprisingly the magistrate refused to refer the matter to police for detailed investigation and recovery of embezzled amount, and instead started a judicial inquiry. A total 56 documents including original forged documents, guilt admission by accused, were produced and marked. The present parish priest of Cordel church, and two others were examined on oath, and it appeared to be a simple matter.
At this juncture the logical step would have been to refer the matter to police for:
- Forensic examination of forged documents and
- Recovery of embezzled amount that was invested in benami land, shares and cash
In a surprising twist, the Court Magistrate allegedly started harassing the complainant instead of acting against the defendant. He allegedly tried to discourage the complainant including encouraging physical attack on him right inside the court hall. It was clear that court magistrate was keen to stall the Court Inquiry and was probably colluding with the accused. Given this situation, complainant Robert Rosario sought sanction to prosecute magistrate Santosh Kunder from the Honourable Governor of Karnataka.
Some highlights of the alleged crimes of the magistrate, according to the appeal filed by Robert Rosario:
- Blatantly disregarded the mandatory Karnataka criminal rules of practice 1968.
- Violation of criminal procedure code.
- Violating every norm and closing all options in law to subject the accused to interrogation.
- Refusal to impound passports of 3 accused despite application.
- Illegally ordering complaint to get the identity and other details of witness which he is not authorized to do under the law.
- Causing harassment to complainant by calling the case at 5.30pm after making him wait for the whole day.
- Summoning witnesses and not examining them.
- Not taking oral submission on record
- Refusing to follow the direction of higher court.
- Encouraging bullying against complainant inside the court hall.
Three months have passed since the application for sanction received by the Governor and there has been no action yet, in either of the cases.
At this juncture drawing support from the judgement of the Supreme Court in the case of Dr Subramanian Swamy v/s Dr Manmohan Singh, which laid down that if the sanction is not received within three months, it is deemed to be a sanction and the complainant can move ahead with prosecution.
Accordingly, Robert Rosario approached the special court Mangalore on 24th January, 2018 with complaint to prosecute magistrate Santosh Kunder, advocate MP Noronha, Bishop Aloysius Paul and Padre Valerian pinto as accused under prevention of corruption act and Indian penal code. The Court received the complaint and posted it for hearing on 31st January regarding maintainability. On 31st January, the court posted for orders on 7th February, 2018 regarding whether to give the case to anti-corruption bureau or not for investigation.
The most shocking aspect of this case is the clout of the accused on the judiciary. Advocate MP Noronha, who is also an accused in the case, had a partner in law firm “Manu Associates” who is now serving as the judge in the High Court of Karnataka. This Judge Mr Justice John Michael Cunha was honoured by the bar association of Mangalore on 4th November 2017. On that occasion the accused advocate MP Noronha was seen openly proclaiming his association with the judge.
Calendar of events
|1||05/04/2017||Case filed in the court of JMFC II Mangaluru under section 200 of CrPC, against 11 accused for the offences punishable under section 120-B, 403, 406, 413, 414, 417, 420, 468, and 477A of Indian penal code with a prayer to refer the complaint U/S 156 (3) Cr P C to the SHO of Mangaluru east police station Kadri for detailed investigation of the crime against all the accused and recover the misappropriated amount from them in the interest of justice. Sri Santosh Kunder is the magistrate in the said court. Complainant was heard on that day and next day and posted for orders.|
|2||20/04/2017||Magistrate wrongly ordered to transfer the case to CJM court; citing sections 468 and 477A IPC are triable by CJM court.|
|3||21/04/2017||Complainant filed application to review and rectify the order as section 413 IPC is triable by court of session and JMFC is the committal court for it. Magistrate recalled his own order made on previous day and posted for further orders.|
|4||02/05/2017||In a 17 page order the magistrate rejected the prayer of referring to police saying before proceeding further he wants to ascertain the veracity of the allegations. And ordered to examine the complainant and witnesses on oath.|
|5||11/05/2017||Complainant and witness examined.|
|6||31/05/2017 & 05/06/2017||Witnesses no 2 and 4examined on oath and documents marked. These documents include reports of commission of enquiry appointed by church and accused no 2, guilt admission in own handwriting by accused, forged documents, audit remarks etc.|
|7||07/06/2017||Application filed to impound the passport of specific accused and also to refer the case to police for recovery of money and investigation of conspiracy. He rejected the application saying at pre summons stage impounding passport can’t be done. He also rejected the prayer to refer to police saying “now the case at stage of examination of complainant and witness. There is bar under proviso (a) of sub section (1) of section 202 CrPC for direction for investigation of the case by the police”|
|8||12/06/2017||Complainant filed citation of Allahabad high court judgement for solution to overcome the proviso.|
|9||17/06/2017||In a 7 page order the magistrate rejected the application for referring to police and ordered for examination of all witnesses.|
|10||08/07/2017||Complainant moved the district and sessions court DK with criminal revision petition challenging the order dated 17/06/2017.|
|11||27/07/2017||VI addl. District and sessions court DK though not fully granted relief, directed the magistrate to speed up and expedite the case.|
|12||11/08/2017||Memo filed with the certified copy of the order of VI addl. District and sessions court DK in revision petition and pointed out the direction to speed up and expedite the case. Memo filed to summon the important witnesses whose identity and address not known to complainant but need to be identified by enquiry officer. He rejected the prayer and ordered the complainant to furnish the names and other particulars of the witness despite knowing that a private citizen is not empowered by law to do so.|
|13||30/08/2017||Complainant filed application to authorize him as complainant to question, verify the records and to do such other things with respect to public authorities like bank and other bodies as he was is not empowered by the law to do so being a private citizen, in order to identify the necessary witness. Magistrate Santosh Kunder rejected the application seeking authorization. Complainant also objected to the fact that court did not care to abide by the direction of higher court to expedite the case. He took exception to this and considering it as allegation on court, ordered to shift the case to some other court. Case adjourned awaiting the order from the district and sessions judge with respect to transferring the case.|
|14||04/10/2017||District judge rejected the request of magistrate to transfer the case. Magistrate again repeated his old illegal order that complainant should furnish the names and other particulars of the witness, in spite of complainant saying he is a private citizen not empowered to do such things like questioning people.|
|15||24/01/2018||The complainant approached the special court Mangalore on 24th January, 2018 with complaint to prosecute magistrate Santosh Kunder, advocate MP Noronha, Bishop Aloysius Paul and Padre Valerian pinto as accused under prevention of corruption act and Indian penal code.|
|16||31/01/2018||The court posted for orders on 7th February, 2018 regarding whether to give the case to anti-corruption bureau or not for investigation.|
The details of the affidavit may be found here.
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