Students of St. John’s Senior Secondary School in Damoh district in India’s Madhya Pradesh state join a march to pay tribute to local heroes in August last year. (Photo: St. John’s Senior Secondary School website)

By UCA News reporter

Jun 30 2023

The High Court in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh has ordered police authorities to immediately demolish a wall erected outside the entrance of a prestigious Catholic school to ensure its students can attend classes.

Police erected the wall on June 22 blocking the approach road to St John’s Senior Secondary School in Damoh district. The move came after police claimed ownership of the road and prompted the school to petition the court.    

On June 28 a High Court judge disagreed with the police action, saying the interests of students affected by the move must come first.

The prestigious school has about 2,300 students.

In his ruling, High Court Justice Sanjay Dwivedi said “looking to the interests of the students and also the general public, I am directing the respondents to provide the school students access to the school for a period of 30 days”.

He said the school could file a civil suit claiming rights to the land and also move an injunction application to the correct court, but till then the respondents must provide access by demolishing the section of wall in front of the school covering the road, to make the school accessible to students and the public.

“The order be complied with immediately without wasting any further time so as to avoid any study loss to the students”, the court added.

The 100-meter-long wall in front of the main gate of the school was built during the night of June 22 without warning.

It completely blocked entry to the school preventing students from attending classes the next day.

After consulting with parents, the school principal, Sister Sophy Bharat, started online classes for students.

“We are very happy that the court has ordered the wall erected to block our way demolished,” an elated Sister Bharat told UCA News soon after the court ruling.

“It is a public road, and nobody has the right to block it in such a way”, she said, adding “we will continue our legal fight as per the instructions given by the High Court”.

The school’s lawyer, Anshman Singh, told the court that the approach road had been used by anyone wanting to go to and from the school without hindrance from the authorities since 1989.

The road was built by the government and no objection to it being used by the school or by private persons had ever been made before, he added.

“But all of a sudden, a wall is constructed by the respondents, the police authorities, saying that the land the road is situated on belongs to the police department… The land is a public road and cannot be closed in such a manner,” Singh said.

The state government’s lawyer representing the police had justified the action by claiming the land the road was on did not belong to the school.

Founded in 1988, the school is one of the most sought-after by parents in the town.

Church leaders allege the police action is part of a targeted attack against Christians and their institutions.

Christians make up 0.29 percent of more than 72 million people in Madhya Pradesh. – UCA News