A court in India on Tuesday, February 15, granted bail and temporary freedom to a Catholic bishop and five priests who were earlier charged of illegal mining of sand in the state of Tamil Nadu.
The Madras High Court in Madurai granted bail to Bishop Samuel Mar Irenios Kaattukallil of Pathanamthitta Syro-Malankara Church and five of his priests who were arrested on February 6.
They were earlier remanded to judicial custody, but Bishop Irenios and Father Jose Chamakala were admitted to the Government Medical College Hospital in Tirunelveli after they fell ill.
The other priests – Fathers Shaji Thomas Manikulam, George Samuel, Jijo James, and Jose Kalaviyal — have been detained in Nanguneri sub-jail in Tirunelveli.
“It is true that our bishop and the priests got bail today, but we have not got the order copy,” a priest from the diocese told Matters India.
Justice K Murali Shankar granted bail to the accused on condition that they cooperate with the investigation team.
The court also took note of the fact that Bishop Samuel Mar Irenios and Father Chamakalayil were suffering from cancer and were under treatment.
All of the accused have pleaded that they were innocent and were not involved in the alleged crime.
The accused allegedly extracted sand illegally from the Tamirabarani (copper jar) river near Pottal, a village in Tirunelveli district, some 625 km southwest of Chennai, Tamil Nadu capital.
A statement from Father Joel P John Poweth, public relations officer of the Pathanamthitta diocese, said the diocese owns 300 acres of land on the Ambasamudram taluq in Tirunelveli district.
The town is situated in the foothills of Western Ghats on the northern bank of Tamirabarani river.
Father Poweth said the diocese leased its land in Tirunelveli to one Manuel George for cultivation. – with a report from Matters India