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Indian court quashes case against Catholic priest

Father Bolmax Fidelis Pereira from the Goa archdiocese was accused of insulting a 17th-century Hindu king
Visitors are seen next to Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Church, one of the oldest churches in Goa

Visitors are seen next to Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Church, one of the oldest churches in Goa. (Photo: AFP)

Published: April 15, 2024 11:36 AM GMT
Updated: April 15, 2024 12:14 PM GMT

A Catholic priest has been set free of the charges of insulting a 17th-century Hindu king by the top court in the tiny western Indian state of Goa.

The Goa bench of the Bombay High Court on April 12 quashed the case registered by the police against Father Bolmax Fidelis Pereira of Goa and Daman archdiocese.

A division bench of Justices M S Sonak and Valmiki Menezes found no merit in the case and dismissed it. It refused to accept the charge that a sermon by the priest was intended to incite dissent and instead questioned the motive of those who leveled such an accusation against him.

The high court completed the hearing on Jan. 15 but has reserved its final order.

In a Sunday sermon on July 30, 2023, Pereira cited the late Hindu king as an example of someone who accepted all faiths.

“Shivaji Maharaj did not discriminate against anyone. He accepted all people. He was a warrior, a hero of the nation. Some people consider him a god. Speak to your friends and ask them whether Shivaji is your God or national Hero?” he is reported to have said.

However, some hardline Hindu groups edited and circulated a video showing a portion of his sermon, accusing the Catholic priest of saying Shivaj is no god.

“With all humility, I accept the judgment,” Pereira told UCA News on April 15.

“I feel vindicated,” the priest said, thanking those who “stood by the truth and freedom granted to us by the constitution.”

The priest denied the allegations in court. “I have in no way hurt any sentiments deliberately.”

“Let not the outside forces infiltrate to create communal discord among us,” he added.

Crispino Fariac, a resident, termed the case "politically motivated."

Some hardline Hindu outfits wanted the priest to be arrested in a false case, “but the truth prevailed,” he added.

The police in Goa, which functions under the government of pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, registered a case in August last year.

Christian leaders say police acted under pressure from hardline Hindu groups.

The priest moved to a local court to gain relief from the arrest and also approached the high court to quash the false charges.

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