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Compass Direct (05/02/06) – The Rev. Dr. Samuel Thomas, president of the Emmanuel Mission International (EMI), was released from the Kota Central Jail today after the Rajasthan High Court granted him interim bail for three months.

In custody for 48 days, Thomas had been held on charges of creating “communal disharmony.”

While granting interim bail to Thomas, the court on May 1 asked him to re-appear on August 1 for another hearing, Mohammad Akram, EMI’s attorney in Rajasthan, told Compass. The court granted interim bail in keeping with the Supreme Court’s April 21 judgments that granted anticipatory bail to EMI founder Archbishop M.A. Thomas and bail to EMI administrator V.S. Thomas, Akram said.

M.A. Thomas, Samuel Thomas’ father, has been in hiding since authorities issued an arrest warrant for him in a Hindu extremist-backed attack on EMI ministries. The three EMI officials, among others, were accused of publishing a book, Haqeeqat, which allegedly denigrates Hindu gods – a charge that EMI denies.

A lower court had earlier rejected Samuel Thomas’s bail, saying the plea was immature, as charges against him had not been framed. When Akram applied for bail for the second time in the court of Additional District Judge No. 2 on April 17, the bail plea was rejected again.

Akram then applied for Thomas’ bail in the High Court on April 22. The matter came up for hearing on April 25, but the court postponed it until April 26, and again adjourned it to May 1.

Thomas was arrested on March 16 in Noida, a town near Delhi , while he was on his way to attorney R.K. Jain’s residence to discuss bail for his father. He was kept in a separate cell in Kota ’s jail, as Akram had requested the court to ensure his protection amid fears that Hindu extremists were planning to attack him.

Akram said a hearing on another petition filed in the High Court was scheduled for tomorrow (May 3). “We have petitioned the court saying that the cancellation of the registration of EMI institutions was illegal and therefore it should be stayed,” he said.

Akram said the irregularities charged by the Registrar of Societies of Kota district were “very minor” and did not deserve action as severe as cancellation of registration.

“At the most, a fine of a small amount could have been demanded as punishment for such minor irregularities,” he said.

He added that when EMI registered its institutions, there was no Registrar of Societies in Kota , so it was done through the registrar in the state capital city of Jaipur . “The Jaipur registrar is of higher rank than Kota ’s, and therefore the latter cannot have the jurisdiction to cancel the registrations done by the former,” he said.

Akram said that the Kota registrar should have written to the Jaipur registrar reporting the irregularities to him rather than taking the action himself.

The registrar of Kota gave a three-day notice before revoking the registrations of EMI’s institutions on February 20 on the pretext of “violation of procedures required by the laws related to societies.”

EMI operates under five registered societies: Emmanuel Bible Institute Samiti, Emmanuel Anath Ashram (Orphanage), Emmanuel School Society, Emmanuel Chikitsalaya (Hospital) Samiti, and Emmanuel Believers Fellowship. EMI leads a native church movement receiving aid from Columbus, Georgia-based Hopegivers International for humanitarian and educational work with over 10,000 children.

Illegal Charges

Charges against Samuel Thomas were put into final form on April 15 and 17 in two cases registered against him in two different police stations in Kota .

Akram said the filing of two complaints in two police stations on the same charges was also illegal. The administration should withdraw one of the complaints, as it is unnecessary harassment to be summoned by two courts for the same charges, he added.

Hearings on charges against Samuel Thomas will be held on May 12 in two courts, the court of Additional Judicial Magistrate and the court of Additional Civil Judge (Junior Division Number 5 North).

A delegation by the All India Christian Council led by Secretary General John Dayal, also member of the National Integration Council of the Government of India, that visited Kota from March 18 to 20 blamed the state government ruled by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party for pressuring the Kota administration to harass EMI workers.

Tensions in Kota district began on January 25, when M.A. Thomas and his son received anonymous death threats warning them not to hold the annual graduation ceremony for hundreds of orphans and Dalit Christian students scheduled for February 25. The ceremony was postponed in the wake of the threats and attacks.