District authorities allow peaceful religious congregations in Uttar Pradesh

(Photo: Christian Today/Shireen Bhatia)

In a move that brings a breather to the Christian community, the District Magistrate of Azamgarh, Uttar Pradesh has issued a positive order allowing prayer meetings and church services to be conducted in Azamgarh district without any hindrance, in compliance with a directive from the Allahabad High Court.

The matter dates back to December 2023 when Nirmala Sukh, Shyamanand and Sanjay Kumar, representing different Christian organisations, approached the Allahabad High Court seeking protection to conduct their religious activities peacefully. They alleged that certain disruptive elements were preventing them from holding prayers and making false accusations of religious conversion.

On 8 December 2023, the High Court observed that holding religious prayers is not violative of any law and directed the petitioners to approach the District Magistrate of Azamgarh with their grievances. The court ordered that any such application should be considered and decided as per the law, after taking necessary comments from the local police.

The Court had in its order remarked, “Considering the facts and circumstances of the case, we find that holding of religious prayer is not violative of any law that has been shown to us. Under the Constitution every citizen has a right to practice and perform his faith and religious congregation that is, of course, subject to public order.”

Following the High Court's order, the petitioners submitted representations to the District Magistrate, who initiated an inquiry into the matter. The police authorities filed reports stating that the petitioners were conducting religious prayers peacefully without any disturbance or violation of laws.

After considering the reports, statements from the petitioners, and other evidence on record, the District Magistrate passed an order on 10 April 10 2024, allowing the petitioners to continue holding their religious prayers and congregations on Saturdays, Sundays, Christmas Day, Good Friday and Easter without any unnecessary interference.

The order specifically mentions that Shyamanand, the President of Jeevan Jyoti Charitable Trust in Reewa alias Babhangawan village, can conduct prayers and discussions on the teachings of Jesus Christ in a peaceful manner. Similarly, Nirmala Sukh, the President of Masihi Prarthana Bhavan Seva Sansthan in Civil Lines, Azamgarh, and Sanjay Kumar, the President of New Hope Rising Church Trust in Dharmpur (Asalpur) village, can hold their religious congregations and prayers without any disturbance.