Jabalpur (Madhya Pradesh): The Madhya Pradesh High Court here has granted anticipatory bail to a Catholic Bishop and nun of Jabalpur dioceses accused of attempting to convert children to Christianity at an orphanage run by them in Katni district of the state.
A single bench of the high court comprising Justice Vishal Dhagat on Wednesday allowed the anticipatory bail applications of prelate Gerald Almeida and sister of Congregation of Mother Carmel Liji Joseph.
The court granted bail to them observing that the complaint against them was not registered by a person aggrieved or against whom an attempt of religious conversion was made or by their relatives.
A first information report (FIR) was filed against the bishop and the nun on a complaint lodged by National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) chairman Priyank Kanoongo on May 30 this year in Katni district.
"Police officer shall not inquire or investigate a complaint under section 3 of Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, 2021 unless said the complaint is a written complaint by a person aggrieved, who has been converted or attempt has been made for his conversion or by person who are parents or siblings or with leave of the court by any person who is related by blood, marriage or adoption, guardianship or custodianship, as may be applicable," the judge observed.
"In the absence of such a written complaint, police do not have any jurisdiction to inquire or investigate offences committed under section 3 of the (MP Freedom of Religion) Act. In view of aforesaid facts and circumstances of the case, the anticipatory bail applications filed by the applicants are allowed," it added.
Kanoongo in his complaint had alleged that the bishop and the nun tried to convert children in diocesan orphanage named Asha Kiran at Katni Railway station that houses 47 children, to Christianity and wilfully neglected them.
The NCPCR chairman had conducted a search at the facility on May 29.
The prelate and nun-in-charge of the facility were charged under the MP Freedom of Religion Act, 2021 and Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015.