Mass Conversion 'Racket'| "Evidence Show He Carried Anti-National Activities": Allahabad HC Denies Bail To Umar Gautam, 4 Others
The Allahabad High Court today denied bail to Mohammad Umar Gautam who was arrested last year on the allegations of running a mass conversion racket in the State and converting the religion of over 1000 people across the state. The Court also denied bail to 4 other co-accused.
Taking into account the evidence collected against Gautam during of course of Investigation by the Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) and the charge sheet submitted against him, the bench of Justice Ramesh Sinha and Justice Saroj Yadav, while denying him bail, observed thus:
"(evidence) reflects that he was carrying on anti-national activities with the help of anti-social elements for achieving a nefarious design that would weaken the social fabric of the country and developed and spread hatredness amongst the people of different religions which would disturb the public tranquility and public order. He has also received huge sum of money in his personal accounts from different sources including foreign countries."
The Court also factored in the apprehension expressed by the state that if he is released on bail, there is every likelihood that he would again indulge in such activities, which would be prejudicial to the national integration of the country.
#JustIn | The #AllahabadHighCourt has denied bail to Mohammad Umar Gautam, who was arrested last year on the allegations of running a mass conversion racket in the State.#MassConversion#ReligiousConversionRacket pic.twitter.com/REC3owttPO— Live Law (@LiveLawIndia) December 16, 2022
Gautam had moved the High Court after his bail plea was rejected by the Special Judge, NIA/ATS/Additional District & Sessions Judge, Lucknow in May this year. He has been booked under Sections 420, 120-B, 153-A, 153-B, 295-A, 511 IPC, and 3/5 U.P. Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Act, 2021.
The case against Gautam in brief
It may be noted that UP ATS, which busted the alleged illegal conversion racket last year and arrested Gautam (who himself converted to Islam from the Hindu faith), has alleged that Gautam and others were using psychological pressure for forceful conversions, as part of their plan to set up an Islamic state and received funding from different countries to carry out conversions.
It has also been alleged that Gautam was involved in promoting enmity between different groups of religions and disturbing the sovereignty and integrity of India by influencing the non-Muslim sects to convert and embrace Islam.
During the course of hearing in his bail plea, the State argued that Gautam and his aides were targetting the weaker sections of the Society, children, women and the people belonging to Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes and their object and goal was to change the demography of country by converting the citizens from one religion to another religion and to disturb the peace and tranquility of society and to disturb the public order.
Among other allegations, it was also submitted that if he is released on bail, there is every likelihood that he would indulge in such activities which would endanger the national integration of the country.
In his defense, Gautam's Counsel argued before the Court that his organization Islamic Dawah Center worked for the underprivileged people irrespective of their religion to provide basic facilities and it helped in preparing the conversion documents of the convertees after getting assured on affidavit that the decision to get converted was out of free-will, with any undue influence or coercion or misrepresentation and the person is a major.
Having heard the arguments of both sides, the Bench noted that the nature of allegations against Gautam and his Organization and the material collected during the probe goes on to show that he was running a syndicate and getting persons of other religions converted into Islam unlawfully.
"He was seen giving hatred speech and using derogatory language towards other religions as some-video links of YouTube have been collected during the course of investigation, which otherwise reflect the innocence of the appellant," the Court further observed.
The Court also took note of the evidence collected by the Anti-Terrorist Squad showing the bank details of Gautam which reflected that he was receiving funds from foreign countries to propagate the aims and objects of the Organization of the appellant for converting people of other religions into Islam for increasing the population of the country of Muslims.
Consequently, the Court affirmed the order of the Trial Court denying him regular bail and dismissed his plea filed under Section 21 (4) of the National Investigation Agency Act, 2008.
Case title - Md. Umar Gautam v. State Of U.P. Thru. Prin. Secy. Home, Lucknow [CRIMINAL APPEAL No. - 1926 of 2022]
Case Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (AB) 529
Click Here To Read/Download Order