8 April 2022 2:34 PM GMT
The Gujarat High Court has rejected anticipatory bail to a man accused of forcefully converting religion of 37 Hindu families and 100 Hindus. It was also alleged that the Applicant lured them by offering financial assistance and converted a house constructed with Government funds to a place of worship — Ibadatgaah."Prima facie from the record produced by the prosecution, it appears...
The Gujarat High Court has rejected anticipatory bail to a man accused of forcefully converting religion of 37 Hindu families and 100 Hindus. It was also alleged that the Applicant lured them by offering financial assistance and converted a house constructed with Government funds to a place of worship — Ibadatgaah.
"Prima facie from the record produced by the prosecution, it appears that the present appellant has attempted to convert directly or otherwise, any person from one religion to another by use of force or by allurement or by any fraudulent means nor any person abet such conversion. Considering the material placed on record before this Court as well as reasons as discussed above, this Court is not inclined to accept the prayer to release the appellant on anticipatory bail, as prayed for," Justice BN Karia said.
The Applicant was booked for offences under Sections 4 of Freedom of Religion Act and Section 120B, 153(B)(1)(c), 506(2) of the Indian Penal Code. It was also alleged that the Applicant hurt sentiments of the Hindu community and when other persons wanted to revert to Hinduism, they were threatened with dire consequences by the Applicant.
Accordingly, the Investigating Officer filed a report adding sections 466,467,468 and 471 of IPC and Sections 3(2)(5-A) of the Atrocities Act. It was also stated that many co-accused were absconding and that releasing the Applicant would further prejudice the investigation.
Accordingly, the Special Court while taking note of these offences had rejected the bail application of the Applicant vide an order of December 2021. Being dissatisfied with the same, the Applicant filed an appeal under Section 14A of the Atrocities Act for anticipatory bail.
The Applicant contested that the alleged offence was committed 15 years ago by two other accused. Further, there were no specific allegations against the current Applicant. He had received several calls from police authorities and he had duly cooperated with them towards the investigation.
Additionally, under Section 3A of the Freedom of Religion Act, an FIR could be filed by the aggrieved person related to him by blood. In the instant case, the complainant had no connection with the convertees. Additionally, the sermons given by the Applicant as an Islamic scholar were in pursuance of his fundamental right to speech and expression. Reliance was placed on Sushila Aggarwal and others Vs. State (NCT OF Delhi) and another (2020) 5 SCC 1 to seek anticipatory bail.
Per contra, the Respondents averred that the charges against the Applicant are of serious nature and he had tried to hurt the sentiments of a particular religion. He had also played an active role in the commission of the offence by providing financial aid to members of another community.
The Court primarily observed that granting anticipatory bail is a matter of discretion and it involves imposing special conditions depending on the facts of the case. Noting the activities of the Applicant, the High Court remarked that the Applicant and other accused had provided air-cooler, water cooler, lories, chatai for Namaz and other articles to various families to allure them for conversion. There were other accused who also provided medical help and helped convert persons. Further, there were a number of derogatory statements as well as threats issued to persons from another community.
Accordingly, the Court declined to accept the bail application.
Case Title: Varyava Abdul Vahab Mahmood Versus State Of Gujarat
Case No.: R/CR.A/92/2022
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