Indian Christians have praised the High Court of Odisha for upholding the life sentences of four extremists who murdered a church minister in 1999.
Dara Singh – also known by the alias Ravindra Kumar Pal – and three accomplices were convicted in 2007 of the murder of Arul Doss at a church service.
At the time of his conviction Singh was already serving a life sentence for the murder of Australian missionary Graham Staines and his two young sons, also in 1999, for which he was convicted in 2003.
Singh’s request for bail was based on the argument that he had already served more than 21 years in police custody and in prison for the murder of Staines, and that this should be factored in to the length of his sentence for the murder of Doss.
The application of all four men was dismissed by the court on 7 September.
Dibakar Parichha, a church minister in eastern Odisha, said, “We welcome the court verdict as Dara Singh is dangerous to society.”
Singh and his three accomplices were members of an extremist group that terrorised religious minorities in Odisha throughout 1999.
In January of that year he led a mob that set fire to the car in which Staines and his two sons – Phillip, aged ten, and Timothy, six – were sleeping, killing all three. In August, Singh attacked and killed a Muslim trader named Shaik Rahaman, for which he received a third life sentence in 2007. In September 1999 he killed Doss with a bow and arrow as the minister prepared to lead worship.
The ruling is the latest in a series of court decisions welcomed by Indian church leaders.
Christians, however, are still facing discrimination and persecution in India, including malicious accusations of seeking converts through force, fraud and allurement, as well as attacks on church services and prayer meetings.