Church in Chains, October 12, 2023 (excerpts)
The Supreme Court of Nepal has upheld the decision of the Jumla High Court, affirming Pastor Keshav Acharya’s one-year prison sentence for proselytising.
Pastor Keshav was arrested on numerous occasions in 2020 on allegations of attempting to convert Hindus to Christianity. On 30 November 2021 the District Court in Dolpa sentenced him to two years in prison, reduced to one year by the Jumla High Court on 13 July 2022. Pastor Keshav appealed the decision to the Supreme Court and was subsequently granted bail pending the Supreme Court decision.
Pastor Keshav stated in his appeal that criminalising and punishing him for practicing his own religion is contrary to the right to religious freedom enshrined in the Constitution of Nepal and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
However, the court dismissed his logic, raising questions about the compatibility of the Nepalese legal system with the principles of religious freedom. This case highlights the flaws in legal systems that supposedly protect freedom of religion yet have anti-conversion laws.
The judgment has deeply affected Pastor Keshav and his family, struggling with the impact of the decision and the fear of his potential arrest and imprisonment. His wife Junu Acharya expressed profound disturbance and heartbreak over the Supreme Court’s decision and said she viewed the legal investigations and legal process as discriminatory and biased.