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Wokha Churches row: HC sets Feb 17 meeting with NBCC, LBCA

Nagaland News

DIMAPUR, FEBRUARY 6: Almost three months after the Kohima Bench of Gauhati High Court had requested the Nagaland Baptist Church Council (NBCC) to play the role of mediator, the dispute between Wokha Town Baptist Church (WTBC) and 3 independent Churches in Wokha continues to grow.
On November 8 last year, the Court had requested the NBCC to mediate and bring amicable solution to the dispute between WTBC and 3 independent Churches: Samyan Baptist Ekhumkho, Vungoju, Wokha Town; Tchuphyangzu Baptist Ekhimkhi, NST Colony, Wokha Town; and Tiyichan Lotha Baptist Church Ekhumkho, Saron Colony, Wokha Town.
As per Court documents, the case pertains to the 3 Churches ~ that initially came into existence as fellowships under WTBC ~ wanting to have their own independent entity for better management and growth.
However, in a hearing held last week, the Court was informed that the NBCC had conveyed to the Registrar of Kohima Bench (Gauhati High Court) that they will be able to play the role of mediator only when the LBCA either requests or allows them.
In his ruling, Justice Songkhupchung Serto stated: “Because of the nature of the disputes and the parties involved who are religious bodies, this Court after giving anxious consideration, was of the opinion that the dispute between the parties would be best resolved through mediation, and it was in that context that NBCC which is the highest body of the Baptist Churches of the State of which the parties involved are also members would be the best body to mediate so that the parties can come to an amicable settlement acceptable to all and which would be long lasting”.
It went on to read: “However, it appears from the letter of the NBCC that an understanding has to be reached first with the LBCA before they can take up the responsibility of a mediator.
Therefore, this Court is of the view that a meeting of the NBCC and LBCA in the premise of this High Court is necessary. Therefore, the Registry shall issue a request letter to the General Secretary of NBCC and the Executive Secretary of LBCA for a meeting on 17/2/2022”.
In its November 8, 2021 order, the Court had ruled that the NBCC should have the liberty to choose a team of mediators who are held in high esteem by the Churches of the State.
It had also ruled that the cost of the mediation should be borne by the High Court Legal Services Authority.
Quite worryingly, the Court hearing last week was held in connection to a fellowship programme of ordained ministers of Lotha Baptist Churches Association (LBCA) proposed to be held at Tchuphyangzu Baptist Ekhimkhi, one of the independent churches involved in the dispute.
According to the Counsel of the three Churches, the Deputy Commissioner of Wokha had on February 2 passed an order directing that the programme be either postponed or changed to another venue “in order to subside the tension between the parties involved in the case”.
He argued that the DC’s order was in violation of an order issued by the Bench on September 23, 2021.
In this regard, Serto ruled: “…since the programme is not strictly of the parties involved, this Court, at this stage of the case, is not inclined to interfere in the order of the Deputy Commissioner, Wokha. However, I may add here that in case of any interference in the programmes of the churches involved here by any authority, the parties can always come to this Court”.
He listed the matter to be heard again after 3 weeks.
(Page News Service)