Tuesday, Mar 26, 2002
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By K. Ramachandran
They have sought a decree for framing an appropriate scheme for administering the property still left in the custody of the Demonte Trust, reconstitution of the management committee of the trust and directions for submitting detailed accounts.
Justice K.P. Sivasubramanian last week admitted and granted an interim injunction against the alienation of the trust property and directed issue of notice to the Archbishop of Madras-Mylapore.
According to the plaintiffs, L.M. Menezes, Prof. J. C. Kuriacose and H. L. D'Silva, the property involved was what John Demonte mentioned in his ``Last Will and Testament made out in 1820''. John De Monte of Portuguese decent, who settled down in Chennai in the 1790 was doing a thriving business. He later purchased immovable property at Adyar, Luz, Alwarpet, Poonamallee, Egmore, Santhome and Kovalam. In his last will, De Monte prohibited alienation or sale of the trust property.
The main complaint of the plaintiffs was that property had been alienated to private parties in violation of the conditions as also of procedures laid down in the trust for managing it.
The income from the property was mandated for specific charities to help widows, orphans, destitutes, etc., and for the upkeep of designated churches, hospitals and seminaries. But it was not done, the plaint said.
On the other hand, it alleged, large property had been alienated for private use and profit. In the most recent case, a piece of property, on the banks of the Adyar, which originally measured 105 acres, ``dwindled to 652 grounds'' by 1952. By 1995, this shrank further to 212 grounds, a property known as Bens Garden on the Boat Club - Chamier's Road. Even this last remnant of the huge corpus of John Demonte was now being sought to be alienated to a private party, who had been inducted into the Archdiocese Property Committee to facilitate the process.
There was a lack of transparency in the decision-making process for alienating the property, the value of which was estimated over Rs.150 crores, the plaintiff said. All this was being done in violation of the Canon Law and a specific decision taken at a meeting of the Council of Priests of the Archdiocese presided over by the Archbishop. They said the suit was ``the result of the failure of all efforts by members of the Church over a three-year period'' to set right the management of the trust property through internal dialogue.
They sought a direction for identifying all trust property and recovery of the ``wrongfully alienated property''.
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