Kerala High Court Directs Govt. To Probe Activities Of Christian
Divine Retreat Centre

KOCHI, Kerala (SAR NEWS) -- The Kerala High Court directed the state
government March 10 to constitute a special investigation team (SIT) to
investigate the various activities of the Divine Retreat Centre (DRC) at
Muringoor in Thrissur district within two weeks.

Justice K. Padmanabhan Nair, acting suo motu on an anonymous letter,
ordered an investigation into the alleged “criminal and social
activities” in DRC. The offences under the Foreign Exchange
Regulation Act, the Foreign Exchange Management Act and scandals like
rape and deaths of some persons under mysterious circumstances should be
investigated, the order added.

DRC, a venture of the Vincentian Congregation established in 1990 mainly
for propagating the Word of God, has earned a pride of place among the
pilgrim centres of the country, a spokesman for the centre told SAR News
March 11. Over 25,00,000 devotees from various parts of India and abroad
have visited the centre so far.

DRC conducts prayer services, preaching, discourses and
sacraments throughout the year. Besides helping the devotees in their
spiritual rejuvenation and liberation from alcohol and drug addiction,
the centre also conducts healing services. Barren married women too have
borne children after praying at the retreat center, the spokesman added.

Though DRC was set up mainly for spiritual enrichment and retreats, it
also houses a de-addiction centre, a 100-bed after-care home for AIDS
patients, St. Mary’s Home for Mother and Child Care, a 150-bed general
hospital, a tailoring school, Divine Printers and Publishers, Divine
Voice monthly magazine, a bible college and Divine Diary Farm.

The centre’s activities are being run smoothly with a 400-strong
professionally trained counseling team to initiate spiritual
awakening in the devotees, along with a 1200-member volunteer force.

IGP to head probe team:

The SIT investigation will be headed by Inspector General of Police
Vinson M. Paul, the judge said. Mr. Paul is presently working as
managing director of Police Housing Construction Corporation,
Thiruvananthapuram. The Inspector General of Police is free to select
the members of his team and the Director General of Police should make
their services available to the team, the court added. SIT could resort
to scientific methods such as polygraph test, brain mapping, DNA test,
finger printing, etc.

The court directed the government to issue a notification under Section
17 of the Prevention Corruption Act conferring power on SIT to
investigate the offences under the Act. It should also inquire into the
allegations of unnatural deaths that have taken place there and find out
whether there was a person by name Karyavelu working in the burial
ground and another person by name Rinu attached to the Divine Retreat
Centre and whether they died under mysterious circumstances.

Allegations of rape:

A woman (identity concealed), now an under-trial prisoner lodged in
the Kozhikode district jail, has complained to the district judge,
Kozhikode, that she had been raped by a Catholic priest, Father Mathew
Thadathil, attached to the centre and that she had become pregnant and
gave birth to a baby. She had lodged the complaint with the Koratty
police station, August 31, 2005. She was in DRC from November 2003 to
June 2005, according to the complaint.

The Koratty police had registered a case in this connection, but made no
progress in the investigation. The court said SIT should investigate
the case. Circle Inspector of Police K.S. Sudarshan had investigated the
matter, official sources told SAR News March 11.

The woman also alleged that bodies of several unidentified persons were
found dumped on the national highway and rail-tracks near DRC. According
to her, the bodies were not that of accident victims or of people who
had died natural deaths.

The centre gets millions of rupees as foreign aid and Father Thadathil
had tried to misappropriate Rs 300 million received for the
orphanage attached to the centre. Hence it was necessary to
investigate the role of the government officials in the running of the
centre and whether any of the public servants had committed
offences punishable under the Prevention of Corruption Act, the judge

The team should also collect from the court the three CDs and newspaper
cuttings sent to the court by the author of the letter and seek further
directions if necessary. SIT should file a preliminary report as to the
action taken in the matter within a month from the date of the
constitution of the Special Investigation Team in this regard.

The director of the Divine Retreat Centre, Father George Panckal, was
not available for comments on the court order.

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