Kochi: The Kerala High Court on Friday directed that a priest of the Orthodox faction can conduct holy mass in a church at nearby Piravom, a day after the Ernakulam district administration took over its control.
A division bench of Justices A M Shaffique and N Anil Kumar also ordered that those who create obstruction in the church can be arrested and put in civil prison until further orders.
Considering pleas filed by an Orthodox priest and others seeking police protection to implement the Supreme Court verdict granting possession of the church to the Orthodox group, the court said all believers can attend the holy mass to be offered by the priest on Sunday.
The court, however, directed that the key of the church, known as Piravom Valiya Palli, shall be kept by the Ernakulam district collector.
The court had on Thursday directed the collector to take control of the church.
The court gave the direction a day after police made a forced entry into the church which was caught in a row between two factions, and removed protesting rival Jacobite priests and followers following its directive on Thursday.
The Orthodox and Jacobite factions have been locked in a tussle over the possession of the church and matters only worsened after the Supreme Court ordered that the control of the place of worship be given to the Orthodox group.
Protesting priests and followers of the Jacobite faction had locked themselves within the church premises on Thursday, not giving any leeway to the other group.
Amid high drama, the Ernakulam district collector S Suhas had taken control of the church using police force.
The High Court had directed the district administration to ensure that protesting priests and followers of Jacobite Church were removed from its premises to implement the apex court order giving its possession to the Orthodox faction.
The Orthodox faction had moved the high court after the state government failed to implement the top court order.
In its 2017 verdict, the apex court had held that 1,100 parishes and their churches under the Malankara Church should be controlled by the Orthodox group as per the 1934 Malankara Church guidelines.
Jacobite church followers have been accused of preventing access to the Orthodox faction, despite orders of the High Court and the Supreme Court.
The Jacobite-Orthodox row dates back to 1912 and has led to violent clashes between the two groups in Piravom.