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Catholic MP loses seat for ‘misusing’ Pope’s name

.- A Catholic politician in India has lost his seat as a member of Parliament after a high court ruled that he “misused” the names of Pope John Paul II and Blessed Teresa of Calcutta to win votes from Christian citizens.

The Kerala High Court ruled Oct. 31 that P. C. Thomas used his religious affiliation to win over voters in the May 2004 election, reported the Indian Catholic News Service.

In an 81-page judgment, Justice C N Ramachandran Nair said Thomas violated two sections of the Representation of the People Act -- 123(3) for circulating leaflets and calendars seeking votes of Christians and 123(5) for using vehicles to transport voters to polling booths, the INCS reported.

The court ruled that P. M. Ismail of the Communist Party of India, who petitioned the case in court, should have won the seat.

According to ICNS, the leaflet in question, which was published in the name of John Kachiramattum of the Catholic Congress, said Pope John Paul II had exhorted Christians to participate in the national mainstream. It also stated that Thomas had attended the beatification ceremony of Mother Teresa and that he had kissed the Pope's palm. There leaflet urged people to vote for Thomas, who was a described as a representative of Christians and compared with the biblical character Joseph, the court pointed out.

The court said 50,000 leaflets and calendars had been printed and extensively circulated in the constituency by Thomas's party workers and with his knowledge.

Thomas had won the election by 529 votes. The court ruled that his opponent Ismail would have received at least 265 more votes had it not been for Thomas’ “corrupt practices.”

The court granted a one-month stay on the application of the judgment to enable Thomas to file an appeal. Thomas said he will file an appeal in the Supreme Court.

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