Placing Bible copies and forcing non-Christians to recite Christian prayers violate Constitutional rights: Legal Rights Observatory
The Legal Rights Observatory, an NGO, has demanded removal of the Bible from Shillong Civil Hospital to maintain secular nature of medical facilities run by the state, taking cue from the “newly established precedent” of removal of Ganesha idol from National Institute of Technology (NIT), Meghalaya. The Observatory lodged the complaint with the Chief Secretary and Health Secretary of the state. The Jaintia Students’ Union, a Christian outfit, had demanded removal of the Ganesha idol.
In the Christian-dominated Meghalaya, copies of Bible are kept on bedside in all wards of Shillong Civil Hospital. According to the complaint, placing Bible copies and forcing followers of Niam Tynrai/Niamtre religion (non-Christian) patients in physical and mental stress to read the Bible for cure is gross violation of his/her rights. “Also it is against the spirit of Article 18 of Universal Declaration of Human Rights by United Nations,” the complaint said.
The organisation further stated that Indian Constitution’s Articles 25, 26, 27 and 28 grant Freedom of Religion to all its citizens. But forcibly placed Bible copies all over Shillong Civil Hospital are insulting and infringes upon the provisions of Article 18 of Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and Indian Constitution.
The Legal Rights Observatory further demanded the Chief Secretary to immediately issue and order calling all district medical officers, health directors to inspect and sanitise all Meghalaya government-run hospitals by removing all Bible copies and religious materials. It also asked the Chief Secretary to impose a carpet ban on all visits of evangelists to government hospitals urging followers of Niam Tynrai patients to read Bible and worship Jesus for medical cure. The group also said that the government should start a helpline to report presence of any such religious books, materials, forced visits of evangelists in Meghalaya government-run hospitals and medical facilities.
“If no visible action is taken on this letter, then we would approach Union Health Ministry to intervene in the matter and for legal action against erring officers,” the complaint said.