Christian prayer meeting in Indore gets green light from SC after local authorities revoked permit

Central Wing of the Supreme Court of India where the Chief Justice's courtroom is situated. (Photo: Subhashish Panigrahi/Wikimedia Commons)

In a significant ruling, the Supreme Court of India has allowed a Christian prayer meeting to proceed in Indore, Madhya Pradesh, after local authorities had withdrawn permission for the event, citing potential law and order issues.

The decision came after a petition was filed challenging the Indore district administration's cancellation of the permit and the subsequent upholding of the denial by the Madhya Pradesh High Court.

The Supreme Court bench, comprising Justices BR Gavai, Satish Chandra Sharma, and Sandeep Mehta, observed that the revocation of the permission on the grounds of a possible law and order situation was "not justified."

"Prima facie, we find that the revocation of the permission which was granted in favour of the petitioner of holding the prayer meeting is not justified," the court stated.

The prayer meeting, organised by the National Prayer and Ministry Alliance, was scheduled for Wednesday, 10th April, and was expected to host around 8,000 attendees.

“Though the court gave us permission to go ahead with the meeting, the orders were given 2 o’clock, therefore it was not possible to conduct the meeting the same day.  We have postponed the meeting to the fourth week of April,” said Thanasingh Anbalagan, Jesus Calls Director for the National Prayer Tower Delhi to Christian Today.

The famous Christian preacher Dr. Paul Dhinakaran was slated to be the keynote speaker at the event.

Initially, the Indore administration had granted permission for the prayer meeting on March 22, with conditions to safeguard the interests of all stakeholders and ensure that no law-and-order situation would arise. The permission was confirmed again by the administration on April 5.

However, on April 7, an assistant election officer in Indore cancelled the permission, citing complaints filed by Hindu outfits and social organisations on April 5, opposing the Christian prayer meeting.

Suresh Carleton, the chairman of the prayer meeting's organising committee, rejected the allegations made by the Hindu organisations, stating, "In our prayer meeting, only those 8,000 persons of the Christian community who live in Madhya Pradesh were invited. In the meeting, we were going to pray collectively for the happiness, peace, and harmony of the country."

Carleton had submitted a petition to the Indore bench of the Madhya Pradesh High Court, contesting the administration's sudden cancellation of permission for the prayer meeting. Following arguments from both parties, Justice Subodh Abhyankar's bench at the high court had dismissed the petition on April 8 observing, “This court is of the considered opinion that it might be true that the intention of the petitioner to convene such meeting must be purely religious in nature, however, the concern raised by the respondents can also not be said to be unfounded, looking to the various objections they have received from other religious organisations,”

After the Indore bench of the Madhya Pradesh High Court upheld the administration's decision to revoke the permit, Carleton had approached the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court allowed the appeal, calling the cancellation "unjustified" and paving the way for the prayer meeting. The court stated, "Prima facie, we find that the revocation of the permission... is not justified." Justices B R Gavai, Satish Chandra Sharma, and Sandeep Mehta issued notices to the Madhya Pradesh government and the Indore administration on Suresh Carleton's plea against the high court's decision.

The Supreme Court's order paved the way for the prayer meeting to take place as scheduled, stating, “It is needless to say that the petitioner will be entitled to hold the prayer meeting at 5:00 p.m. today, i.e., 10 April 2024, however, the same shall be subject to the petitioner's strictly complying with the directions/conditions stated in order dated March 22, and March 05, this year.”