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Indian court grants relief for Protestant pastor, wife

The district authority had banished the couple facing conversion charges from their village home in north Goa
The Basilica of Bom Jesus in Goa. Goa was the center of the Catholic mission in Asia after Goa diocese was erected in 1533. The diocese's jurisdiction at the time stretched from the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa to China and Japan.

The Basilica of Bom Jesus in Goa. (Photo: AFP)

Published: May 10, 2024 11:45 AM GMT
Updated: May 10, 2024 11:51 AM GMT

The top court in a western Indian state has revoked an official order that prohibited a Protestant pastor and his wife from living in their village home following allegations of religious conversion.

The Goa bench of the Bombay High Court on May 8 set aside the district collector’s order, which banished Pastor Dominic D’Souza and his wife Joan Mascarenhas D’Souza from their residence in Siolim village in north Goa.

The couple runs an independent Church called the Five Pillars Church.

The North Goa district collector, the highest government official in the district who also has executive magisterial powers, issued the order against the couple on March 14 under the Goa Maintenance of Public Order and Safety Act. He ordered them to leave North Goa for six months.

They were accused of using black magic and converting B Vadivel, a Hindu and native of southern Tamil Nadu state, who currently lives in Goa.

The conversion incident happened in January and Vadivel filed a police complaint against the couple. The police filed multiple cases against the couple based on which the order was issued.

The pastor and his wife challenged the collector's order before the office of the chief secretary of Goa state, which is the appellate authority.  

When there was a delay, the couple approached the High Court, which directed the chief secretary to dispose of their appeals by April 26.

However, the appellate authority dismissed their appeals, and the couple once again approached the High Court to quash the order.

The High Court said an externment order could not be issued as the cases against the couple were pending investigations.

It further ruled that there is no link between the cases and the externment order, which was set aside.

“They are now free to return to their home,” said advocate Kapil Kerkar, who represented the couple in the High Court.

Catholics once dominated the socio-political scene in the coastal state.

Goa was the center of the Catholic mission in Asia, and the Goa diocese was erected in 1533. At the time, the diocese's jurisdiction stretched from the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa to China and Japan.

Currently, they form around 25 percent of the state's estimated 1.5 million people, mostly Hindus.

Goa is ruled by the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

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