MUMBAI, India – Christians in India are breathing a sigh of relief after the country’s supreme court dismissed a petition filed by Hindu Dharma Parishad (HDP) seeking establishment of a board to monitor the activities of Christian missionaries.

The Hindu nationalist group claimed “anti-social and anti-national elements” were forcibly converting people from Hinduism to other religions, notably Christianity, and that Christian missionaries needed to be monitored to “strengthen India’s unity and sovereignty and stability.”

Around 80 percent of India’s 1.35 billion people are Hindus, with Christians making up just 2.3 percent of the population.

The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has a Hindu nationalist agenda, and often discriminates against religious minorities, who have complained of increased harassment since the party took power in 2015.

Hindu nationalist groups often accuse Christian missionaries of “illegally” targeting poor and illiterate Hindus for conversion and claim Christian charitable institutions – the church is disproportionately represented in the education, health, and social services sectors – are primarily used for stealth missionary actions.

While dismissing the latest petition, India’s supreme court said the charge was more for the “publicity interest” of the Hindu Dharma Parishad than for the public interest.

“You [the petitioner] are actually disturbing the harmony with these kinds of petitions,” the court said.

Father Babu Joseph, the former spokesman for the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, said the supreme court’s decision was “laudable” and “has upheld the constitution and its cherished values of according equal respect for all citizens of India.”

“The very petition filed by the HDP is to be viewed with utmost suspicion for its bad faith intention of targeting the Christian community under the guise of religious conversion,” the priest told Crux.

“It appears that some of these organizations, for whatever it’s worth, have been on the prowl to pick on the Christian missionaries who have done immense good to Indians, especially those pushed to the margins of society,” he said.

“Is bringing dignity and honor to those who have been oppressed by an unjust social system a crime? To do what they have been doing is borne out of true belief in the value of human life,” Babu continued.

“Dignified life unfortunately is still a distant dream for some of our brothers and sisters in our country. This must change and organizations like HDP would do well by focusing on raising the social consciousness of people to bring about human equality.”