Kerala High Court Directs Govt. To Probe Activities Of Christian Divine Retreat Centre By SAR NEWS
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 observed. 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.