A district court gave the Christians one month to appeal against the verdict in a higher court
Christians of various denominations gather in a show of solidarity after a Catholic priest of Jhabua Diocese was illegally detained by police on Jan. 18 following allegations he attempted to convert a person fraudulently. A district court in central Madhya Pradesh state on July 19 sentenced three Christians to two years of rigorous imprisonment over conversion charges. (Photo: supplied)
A court in India’s Madhya Pradesh state has sentenced three Christians, including a pastor, to two years of rigorous imprisonment after convicting them of violating the state’s anti-conversion law.
Pastor Jam Singh, Christians Ann Singh, and Mangu Singh were convicted of converting indigenous people to Christianity.
The court also imposed a fine of 50,000 rupees (Some US$610) on each of them on July 19.
However, the district’s court also granted them bail and gave them one month’s time to appeal against the order in the top court of the state. In case, they fail to appeal within the stipulated time, they could be arrested and sent to jail.
“We will appeal against the order soon in the high court,” said Kaleb Muniya, son of Auxiliary Bishop Paul Muniya of the Protestant Shalom Church to which the convicts belong to.
The convicted “will be surely discharged from the case as they did not convert anyone,” Munia told UCA News on July 20.
The case began when a person named H. Baria complained that the pastor and others summoned Baria and a woman for a prayer meeting at Bisouli village in Jhabua district on Dec. 26, 2021. The pastor sprinkled water on them and asked them to become Christians, the complaint said.
During the program in the indigenous-dominated district, the pastor offered them free education and medical treatment for their families, if they converted and become Christians. They refused and left the place, the complaint said.
Muniya said the pastor and the two others accused in the case are relatives and were praying in their house during Covid-19 “as no Church services were permitted then.”
The complainant lives some eight kilometers away in another village and made the false complaint as part of a trend of falsely accusing Christians of violating the anti-conversion law, Muniya said.
A bench of the Madhya Pradesh High Court in Jabalpur on June 19 said the police should not register cases under the anti-conversion law based on complaints from a third party.
“Police officer shall not inquire or investigate a complaint” under the anti-conversion law unless the complaint comes from a person who has been converted or one who underwent attempts for conversion or from blood relatives of such victims, the court said.
In the case of the prelate, the complaint has come from a third party, and "police do not have any jurisdiction to inquire or investigate” such complaints of violation of anti-conversion law, the court said.
“If police are strict about maintaining law, there won’t be any conversion case in Madhya Pradesh,” said Daniel John, a Catholic leader based in the state capital Bhopal.
He told UCA News on July 20 that Christians are a tiny minority in the state and if they were involved in conversion that should not be the case.
Christians account for less than 1 percent of the more than 72 million people in the state, 80 percent of them Hindus.
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