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SC says it won't allow persecution of minorities

The Supreme Court today said it would not allow 'persecution' of minorities and asked the Orissa government to resign if it was unable to protect Christians who were targeted in recent riots that followed the assassination of a VHP leader.

india Updated: Jan 06, 2009 17:37 IST

The Supreme Court on Tuesday said it would not allow "persecution" of minorities and asked the Orissa government to resign if it was unable to protect Christians who were targeted in recent riots that followed the assassination of a VHP leader.

"We are secular country. We cannot allow persecution of minorities," a Bench headed by Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan said.

The Bench, which also comprised Justices Markandey Katju and P Sathasivam, criticised the state government for allegedly stepping in late to check the violence against the minority community after the killing of VHP leader Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati on August 23, 2007.

"It is the duty of the state government to protect the minority community. You (State) have done only after 50,000 people of the minority community fled to the jungles," the Bench said when senior advocate K K Venugopal said that the Orissa government has complied with the orders of this court.

"We will not accept the persecution of minority. If the state government is unable to protect them it should resign," Justice Katju observed and added "we have to protect the minority".

"No minority community should be insecure in the country," he said.

The apex court, which in October last, had directed the stationing of para-military forces in the riot-hit areas till December-end in view of Christmas, asked the Orissa government not to take any unilateral decision on its withdrawal.

The Bench said any decision on withdrawal of central forces should take place in coordination with the Centre.

The court order followed the Centre's objection to the submission of the state government in which it talked about out the idea of withdrawing the central forces in phased manner from February onwards in view of the coming general elections.

The Bench, which was hearing a petition filed by the Archbishop of Cuttack Raphael Cheenath related to violence in Kandhamal district and other areas of the state, was told by his counsel Colin Gonsalves that there has been a "deceptive" calm in the area after the deployment of the central forces.

He expressed dissatisfaction over the compensation announced by the state government for repairing the damaged churches.

Gonsalves said that the compensation given to churches damaged during riots was meagre as it was providing only Rs 50,000 for the places of worship which were damaged totally in the fire.

He said where the estimate for repair was Rs 5 to 6 lakh, the state was providing only Rs 50,000 and in some cases no compensation was being considered.

Replying to the submission on compensation, Venugopal said in cases where there is a dispute over land, the compensation has been kept on hold.

He said there have been cases where there were issues relating to encroachment of land, including that of forests and state government.

The compensation could be considered for the structure which are on the land other than the forest and government lands, Venugopal said.

Taking the affidavit of Orissa government on record, the Bench posted the matter after six weeks asking the parties to file their response.

Gonsalves told the Bench that the nun, who was allegedly raped during the anti-Christian violence in the state, would participate in the test identification parade today in a Cuttack court.

The apex court on October 22 last had rejected a plea for CBI probe into the incident and had asked the victim to cooperate with state police over the investigation into the matter.