he Gujarat High Court on Friday dismissed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) seeking permission to pray, specially during the Christmas festivity, at the oldest church in the tribal-dominated Dangs district in south Gujarat. The petitioner, Church of North India (CNI), had moved the court seeking permission to allow its members to enter and pray in the church and had sought police protection. The division bench of chief justice R Subhash Reddy and justice V M Pancholi dismissed the petition.
The petitioner said that First District Church of Brethren (FDCB), another group of Christians, has been objecting to people belonging to CNI following dispute over the ownership of the church.
The reason behind the dispute is attributed to the fact that FDCB, which is one of the six members of CNI, refused to accept CNI as owners of the property traditionally held by former. In 1970, FDCB became a member of CNI which was a process of unification of six different religious group of Protestant Christians.
Besides FDCB, an offshoot of Brethren Church of United States, The council of Baptist Churches in North India, The Churches of India, Pakistan, Burma and Ceylon, The Methodist Church in Southern Asia and The United Church of northern India became a single entity recognized as The Church of India or CNI.
In the past, the matter had reached Gujarat High Court that gave its verdict in FDCB’s favour which was again challenged in the Supreme Court. The apex court upheld the High Court’s ruling. Despite this the dispute refuses to settle.
Both the group are claiming the ownership of the church located at Ahwa, the district’s headquarters. This church was built in 1932. The total property of this church and its other wings such as schools, hostel and residential areas worth Rs 50,000 back in 2004 in the record of Charity Commissioner, Ahmedabad.