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India's Supreme Court to hear plea for protecting Christians

Judges assured the matter will be listed as a priority the day courts reopen after the summer vacation

Catholics pray during a Good Friday service at an East Delhi church on April 14, 2019

Catholics pray during a Good Friday service at an East Delhi church on April 14, 2019. (Photo: Bijay Kumar Minj/UCA News)

Published: June 28, 2022 09:59 AM GMT

Updated: June 28, 2022 10:19 AM GMT

India’s Supreme Court has admitted a plea seeking a direction to end the rising attacks against Christians and their institutions in the county.

A division bench of Justice Surya Kant and Justice J.B. Pardiwala directed the court registry to list it on a priority basis for July 11, the day courts reopen after the summer vacation.

Archbishop Peter Machado of Bangalore Archdiocese in Karnataka state, the National Solidarity Forum and the Evangelical Fellowship of India filed the petition.

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On average, 45 to 50 violent attacks take place against Christian institutions and priests every month throughout India. However, 57 attacks against community members including their institutions were recorded in May, said senior advocate Colin Gonsalves while appearing for the petitioners.

“What you are saying is unfortunate, if it is happening. What we can ensure is that your matter is listed on the reopening day itself,” observed the bench when Gonsalves pleaded for an urgent hearing.

The petitioners also sought proper implementation of guidelines issued by the top court in 2018 to deal with the menaces of hate crimes, cow vigilantism and mob lynching across the country.

The petitioners believe that if the 2018 guidelines are implemented, it would help check violence against them and others who have been victims of religious bias and persecution

The top court had directed both the federal and provincial governments to fast-track trials, pay victim compensation, initiate deterrent punishment and disciplinary action against lax law-enforcing officials.

The states shall designate a senior police officer not below the rank of police superintendent as nodal officer in each district, it had said, adding that these officers will set up a task force to be assisted by one DSP-rank officer for taking measures to prevent mob violence and lynching, noted the top court.

The Supreme Court also wanted state governments to identify districts, subdivisions and villages where instances of lynching and mob violence have been reported in the recent past with a view to nipping them in the bud.

The petitioners believe that if the 2018 guidelines are implemented, it would help check violence against them and others who have been victims of religious bias and persecution.

Karnataka has been a hotbed of anti-Christian violence where Christians have faced targeted attacks following allegations of religious conversion.

The state also recently issued an ordinance restricting religious conversion with strict provisions including a fine and up to 10 years jail term for religious conversion through allurement, fraud and coercion.

Archbishop Machado has been at the forefront of opposing the anti-conversion law, describing it as a tool in the hands of right-wing Hindu groups to step up violence against minorities, especially Christians and Muslims.

Christians make up 2.3 percent of 1.3 billion people in India, of whom 80 percent are Hindus.

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