A pastor who was arrested in December for allegedly converting people to Christianity through allurement was granted bail by the Indore bench of the Madhya Pradesh High Court on Wednesday after spending nine months in prison.

This was Ramesh Vasuniya’s fourth application for bail in the high court. He had also made two bail applications in the lower courts. While granting him bail, Justice Rajendra Kumar Verma said, “...Without commenting on the merits of the case, this application is allowed.”

“We are all extremely happy,” said Ramesh Vasuniya’s son, Samuel Vasuniya. “Only we know under what kind of pressures and worries we have had to deal with over the last nine months.”

The bail order asked Ramesh Vasuniya to furnish a personal bond of Rs 50,000 and a surety of the same amount to ensure that he could be present at court hearings. The order adds that if Ramesh Vasuniya is found to be involved in any other offence, the bail order will be automatically canceled and the police could arrest him again.

Advocate Rajesh Joshi appearing for the accused stated that this was the normal procedure followed while granting bail.

The prayer hall from where pastor Ramesh Vasuniya was picked up on December 5. Credit: Aishwarya Iyer

Nine months in jail

Ramesh Vasuniya was taken into custody on December 5, after some policemen came to make inquiries at his prayer hall in Padalva village in Madhya Pradesh’s Jhabhua district. At the same time, men on four or five bikes also arrived, the pastor’s son Samuel Vasuniya said.

The pastor was taken to the Ranapur police station on the pretext of asking him some questions. His wife Kumtu and four members of his congregation followed them to the police station. They allegedly had an altercation with the men on the bikes.

A first information report was registered. All six, including Ramesh Vasuniya, were booked under the Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act. They were charged with converting people to Christianity through allurement.

The first information report said that 70-year-old Moga Vasuniya, a Hindu priest from the same village, made a complaint after he and four others had visited the prayer hall on December 5. Ramesh Vasuniya is alleged to have sprayed holy water on them and promised each of them Rs 1,000, a motorcycle and medical facilities if they converted to Christianity.

When a Scroll.in reporter met Moga Vasuniya, he complained about the falling attendance at his temple even as the number of visitors to the Christian prayer hall was increasing. When asked about his complaint against the pastor, Moga Vasuniya was clear.

“I did not write any complaint. I am illiterate,” he said, adding that contrary to the statement made under his name, he said he had never stepped foot inside the pastor’s prayer hall.

The other five people arrested with the pastor were granted bail by the Indore bench of the Madhya Pradesh High Court on January 17.

Ramesh Vasuniya’s counsel argued that Moga had been falsely implicated in the case. Considering that the statements of the complainant had been recorded before the trial court, there was no possibility of witness tampering, advocate Joshi argued. Since the chargesheet had been filed and the conclusion of trial would take a sufficiently long time, Vasuniya argued for bail.

“By tomorrow night, he should be out after all the formalities are done,” Samuel Vasuniya said, adding that he is going to install CCTV cameras around his home. “We need to ensure our safety.”