The Supreme Court of India, on Thursday, September 1, asked the Ministry of Home Affairs to call for reports from eight states Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, Karnataka, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Bihar and Jharkhand on alleged attacks on members of the Christian community.
The court's order came on a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by Peter Machado, Archbishop of Bangalore and head of National Solidarity Forum, along with Vijayesh Lal of Evangelical Fellowship of India, and others claiming violence against the members of the Christian community in the country.
Appearing for the petitioners, senior advocate Colin Gonsalves told the court that as per data, there were around 505 instances of violence in 2021 and about 700 during 2021-22. In several instances prayer meetings have been disrupted and pastors beaten up.
The plea has claimed that in May this year alone, 57 cases of violence and attacks on Christian institutions and priests took place.
He added that in majority of the attacks against the members of the Christian community, there is a pattern, and are being done with the connivance of police authorities. Gonsalves pointed out that in several cases Christian priests have been booked by police and attackers allowed to go scot free.
In an affidavit filed in the matter earlier, the Central government had raised preliminary objections saying that the plea is “based upon mere conjectures” and with false motives.
The court issued the order, rejecting the Union government’s contention that the PIL is based on 'self-serving reports'.
To the statement of the Solicitor General Tushar Mehta that 162 of the cases mentioned in the PIL have been found to be fake on verification at the ground level, the court said, even if 10% of the cases alleged in the PIL is true, then it needs to go to the bottom of the issue.
“We need to separate grain from the chaff; even though we believe that an attack on individuals does not mean it is an attack on the community, we need to verify the claims of any such incident claimed in the public interest litigation (PIL),” a bench of Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and Hima Kohli said.
The court directed the chief secretaries of all the eight states to “have a verification exercise and ask the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) to submit a report after collating the data on what action has been taken on such incidents of violence, status of FIRs and arrests made and whether any charge sheet has been filed in these cases or not.”
It asked the petitioners to provide a break-up of the instances to the office of Solicitor General Tushar Mehta.
The petitioners also sought implementation of the guidelines issued by the apex court in the Tehseen Poonawala judgement under which nodal officers were to be appointed to take note of hate crimes and register FIRs.
In 2018, the apex court had come out with a slew of guidelines for the Centre and the states to tackle such crimes including fast-tracked trials, victim compensation, deterrent punishment, and disciplinary action against lax law-enforcing officials.
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