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Court to hear Archbishop’s plea today

Legal Correspondent

New Delhi: The Supreme Court will hear on Wednesday a writ petition filed by the Archbishop of Cuttack for a CBI probe into the killings of Christians and damage caused to churches and other institutions in Kandhamal district of Orissa.

A three-judge Bench of Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, Justice P. Sathasivam and Justice J.M. Panchal took the decision when senior counsel Colin Gonsalves sought early listing.

When the CJI asked Archbishop Raphael Cheenath to approach the Orissa High Court, Mr. Gonsalves said he could not go to the High Court as he faced a threat to his life. He submitted that the situation in the area was tense and it was difficult for him to freely move in the State as he had received threatening letters.

The Archbishop said after VHP leader Swami Lakshmanananda Saraswati, head of a local math in Orissa, was killed on August 23, “his supporters are saying that since you [missionaries] have killed our head we will kill your head.” Counsel said the State was not properly deploying Central forces.

Additional Solicitor-General Gopal Subramaniam, who intervened, assured the court that the Centre would fulfil its responsibilities and take necessary steps for deployment of adequate forces in the area. He said he would take up the matter with the Home Secretary and inform the court on Wednesday on the steps taken.

The Archbishop said the petition was being filed in the public interest, challenging the failure of the State government to maintain law and order in Kandhamal district and protect innocent people whose human rights were being violated after the killing of Swami Lakshmanananda Saraswati and others by some Maoists.

The petitioner alleged that inadequate compensation was being provided and said an arbitrary and irrational methodology was employed in choosing recipients for financial assistance. There was a deliberate attempt to exclude churches and institutions run by the church and direct victims for any financial assistance and relief.

He said that in the communal violence following the Swami’s killing, hundreds of homes were burnt down, and many churches and institutions were completely destroyed. Thousands were rendered homeless.

The sequence of events would indicate that the attacks were not isolated incidents but part of a well-orchestrated conspiracy which had the full support of the State government, he submitted.

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