Rev. P.S.P. Raju, Bishop of Calcutta Diocese of Church of North India (CNI), moved a prayer for anticipatory bail on Wednesday in connection with a case of misappropriation of funds amounting to Rs 2.4 crore.
A division bench of Justice N.A. Chowdhury and Justice A.K. Bhattacharya adjourned the hearing of the petition till September 29 after the government counsel assured that Rev. Raju, also chairman of the governing committee of the St Thomas School for Boys, Kidderpore, would not be arrested.
The court directed the Bishop to regularly meet investigating officer P.G. Das, an inspector with Shakespeare Sarani police station, till the case comes up for hearing next Wednesday.
'This is, perhaps, the first time in recent memory that the head of a religious body had to seek anticipatory bail. We, as a community, are ashamed of today's development,' said Rev. Sailesh Mukhopadhyay, secretary, Calcutta Diocese of CNI, and principal of St Thomas College of Engineering and Technology.
A section of members of the 27 CNI-controlled churches has been demanding the Bishop's removal for alleged financial and administrative irregularities.
On the basis of an order passed by the metropolitan magistrate's court on August 24, Shakespeare Sarani police station had lodged an FIR on August 26 against the Bishop.
The magistrate's court had acted on a complaint filed by Goutam Banerjee, registrar of St Thomas College of Engineering, run on the premises of the St Thomas School, Kidderpore, a CNI property.
Banerjee alleged that the Bishop had proposed to set up an engineering and technology institute to function under the Calcutta Diocesan Education Council. The Bishop promised to donate 5.27 acres owned by St Thomas School for the college.
An agreement was signed between the governing body of the school and the council in March 2000, but according to Banerjee, the Bishop, who is also chairman of the council, has yet to register the deed.
'The engineering college was set up by spending Rs 2 crore. An additional Rs 40 lakh was spent for affiliation,' said Banerjee. 'But now, the Bishop wants the college to vacate the plot and shift. This will jeopardise the academic career of many students.'
When the anticipatory bail petition in this regard came up for hearing, public prosecutor Kazi Safiullah told the court that police would not arrest the Bishop. 'But he should be asked to come to Shakespeare Sarani police station to assist the police,' he said.