SC seeks Centre, Syrian Church's response on forced confession charge

Updated December 14, 2020

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IANS

New Delhi, Dec 14 (IANS) The Supreme Court on Monday sought response from the Centre, Kerala government and high functionaries of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church on a plea challenging the alleged practice of forced and mandatory confession from every member in the church.

The plea was filed by Mathew. T. Mathachan, Shaji P.J. and Jose C.V., through advocate Sanand Ramakrishnan.

After a brief hearing in the matter, a bench headed by Chief Justice S.A. Bobde and comprising Justices A. S. Bopanna and V. Ramasubramanian issued notice on the plea.

"This pernicious practice of forced, compulsory and mandatory confession (not being voluntary) from every member, both men and women, is causing several other problems including sexual exploitation of women and blackmailing," said the plea.

The petitioners said they are constrained to move the petition under Article 32 of the Constitution for protection of their fundamental rights under Article 21 of the Constitution including human dignity against the practices of compulsory confession and mandatory payment of monies to their respective parish churches.

"The compulsion confess is a serious intrusion into the privacy of a person, as held by this court's 9 judge bench. This in turn seriously affects the dignity of an individual who has been subject to blackmail and then made to surrender her bodily privacy," said the plea.

The plea cited that the practice of confession among Catholics is entirely voluntary and there is no element of compulsion. The petitioners have argued that privacy is the constitutional core of human dignity and the intersection between one's mental integrity and privacy entitles the individual to freedom of thought, freedom to believe in what is right and freedom of self-determination.

"Forced confessions and confiscatory demands for monies as a pre-condition for continuance of membership militates against the fundamental rights chapter enshrined in the Constitution," said the plea.

The petitioners have urged the top court to restrain the church from extracting forced confessions or forced payments, and lso, pass a direction restraining the church functionaries from not removing any parishioner from not making forced confession not making payments to the church, till the matter is finally adjudicated.

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