Supreme Court adjourns hearing of petition to stop attacks on Christians as federal government yet to collect details
The Supreme Court of India. (Photo: IANS/UCA News files)
India’s top court has granted the federal government more time to provide details of alleged attacks against Christians in the country.
Hearing a petition on March 29, the Supreme Court allowed the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party-led government more time and posted the next hearing on April 14.
The public interest litigation seeks the court's directions to stop alleged attacks against Christian priests and Christian institutions across the country.
The petition was filed in 2021 by Archbishop Peter Machado of Bangalore along with the National Solidarity Forum and the Evangelical Fellowship of India.
The three-judge bench headed by Supreme Court Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud adjourned the hearing after the attorney sought more time to respond to the court’s earlier direction to verify the factual position of alleged attacks against Christians, listed in the petition.
Eight Indian states, most of them ruled by the Bharatiya Janata Party, were told on Sept. 1, 2022, to provide details on preliminary police reports, the status of the investigations, arrests made, and charges filed in court for prosecuting the culprits.
The top court had directed the federal home ministry to collect details from the states and present them before it.
The case will now be further delayed and the petitioners are worried as the government has been delaying the hearing under some pretext or the other. Attacks on Christians have been increasing drastically during the pendency of the petition.
"When we filed this case, we expected that giving examples [of attacks] would be a deterrent. Now, there has been an exponential rise in attacks against Christians everywhere,” Colin Gonsalves, petitioners’ lawyer, told the top court.
Gonsalves told the court that there was a pattern to the systematic attacks on the minority community.
“The pattern is that you attack the community, you arrest the priest, you stop the prayer meetings, and register a case against Christians,” he said during the hearing.
The petitioners have cited a report by the United Christian Forum, saying the country witnessed 597 incidents of attack against Christians in 2022.
The federal government, however, has denied the community was under attack saying a majority of the incidents described as evidence of Christian persecution were “either false or wrongfully projected.”
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who appeared for the federal government on Aug. 16, told the court that that “half-baked and self-serving facts and self-serving articles and reports culminating in a petition — based upon mere conjectures — clearly appear to be for an oblique purpose.”
Christians make up 2.3 percent of India’s 1.4 billion population.
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