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Christian body accused of misappropriating property

FORTY-ONE FORMER students of the Jamuna Christian Inter College and office-bearers of the North India Synod (NIS) have taken up cudgels against the Lucknow Diocesan Trust Association (LDTA). They have accused the LDTA of illegally leasing out school and college property worth crores to unauthorised persons.

india Updated: Oct 02, 2006 00:30 IST
BK Singh

FORTY-ONE FORMER students of the Jamuna Christian Inter College and office-bearers of the North India Synod (NIS) have taken up cudgels against the Lucknow Diocesan Trust Association (LDTA). They have accused the LDTA of illegally leasing out school and college property worth crores to unauthorised persons.

As per the records of sub-registrar Allahabad, land of the college had earlier been sold to Revd. Joseph Owen, Pastor of American Presbyterian Church by the government on February 28, 1918 for a sum of Rs 6000 for the purpose of running the college. After Owen's death, his widow Janes Bell handed over the property in favour of Board of Foreign Mission. Thereafter, CNI came into existence on November 29, 1970 under the chairmanship of the first Bishop Rev Deen Dayal at Nagpur. This body proclaimed that six denominations which were working earlier in India had merged to form CNI (though its existence is under dispute). As a result CNI acquired the properties from all the six denominations in India.

In 1998 Solomon Vikram Singh the then executive secretary NIS of UCNI filed a case against the board of foreign mission against illegal transfer of properties of American Presbyterian Church to CNI. The court declared that North India Synod of UCNI was the sole owner of all the properties and the other party ie Board of Foreign Mission had no right to transfer the properties of NIS/UCNI to anybody else because they had already transferred the property to NIS in 1966. This includes ECC, Ewing Christian School and adjoining residential campus, Mary Warnamaker, Bishop Johnson Girls wing, Mary Lucas, Chowk Church and Katra Mission compound in Allahabad.

However, the court also ordered cancellation of all property transfer deeds. CNI which found itself cornered by the court order allegedly started illegally leasing out land to Christians and non-Christians, including friends and relatives for the purpose of constructing houses and shops through former LDTA secretary Harrison Mall.

This illegality has allegedly resulted in the disappearance of playgrounds situated on the campuses of Jamuna Christian Inter College, Mary Warnamaker and some other schools. The remaining lot of schools is also facing similar threat, says Solomon Vikram Singh, vice-moderator of NIS. "The land, which has been leased out is the one on which we once used to play football and hockey," says Imtiaz Alam, former student of the Jamuna Christian Inter College.

However, the same has been doled out for the purpose of constructing houses by Harrison Mall former secretary LDTA," he alleged. All this despite the fact that the same belongs to the NIS, he claimed. It may be mentioned that a high powered inquiry committee had been constituted by the district administration in 1997 to inquire into allegations of leasing out and selling of land of St. Pauls Church, Jamuna Church and compound, Katra Mission Church and Compound and Warden-Friendly Relief Trust at Allahabad .

This committee was headed by the then ADM (civil supplies) Badal Chatterji and former SDM Chail Sangeeta Singh. But the findings of this committee are yet to be known, says Solomon Vikram Singh. Since then at least three governments have come and gone but nobody tried to know the truth, he rues.

It is noteworthy that as per the records of sub-registrar companies Kanpur Harrison Mall has been replaced by one Liyaqat M Khan as secretary LDTA and the ex-Bishop Anil Stephens has been replaced by Rev Samuel P Prakash as Bishop of Lucknow and chairman LDTA (Anglican body) on April 1, 2003. When LDTA started "illegal leasing" of properties of NIS, Deepak Das, executive secretary NIS obtained a stay order restraining the LDTA from leasing the property.

In this context a court notice has also been served to ex Bishop Anil Stephen, ex secretary Harrison Mall (LDTA) by the court and property officer NIS Isaac Frank but despite this the illegal transfer of land is allegedly still continuing.

Meanwhile, former students and NIS office bearers have demanded immediate ban on illegal constructions on the land, registration of FIRs against the culprits and CBI probe in the land scam. They have also resolved to stage dharna and demonstration at Jamuna Christian Inter College from 9 am to 12 noon on
October 9.