13 Feb 2023 12:20 PM GMT
The Allahabad High Court last week granted interim protection against coercive action to the Vice Chancellor of Sam Higginbottom University of Agriculture, Technology and Sciences (formerly Allahabad Agricultural Institute) (Dr.) Rajendra Bihari Lal in connection with a mass religious conversion case.The bench of Justice Manju Rani Chauhan passed the order in an anticipatory bail...
The Allahabad High Court last week granted interim protection against coercive action to the Vice Chancellor of Sam Higginbottom University of Agriculture, Technology and Sciences (formerly Allahabad Agricultural Institute) (Dr.) Rajendra Bihari Lal in connection with a mass religious conversion case.
The bench of Justice Manju Rani Chauhan passed the order in an anticipatory bail application filed by Lal. The operative part of the Court's order reads thus:
"If the applicant appears before the investigating officer (IO) on February 13 and 15, 2023, and files an undertaking to that effect before the IO on February 13, 2023, itself surrendering his passport, if any, to further the investigation, the IO shall ensure that neither the applicant be arrested nor any coercive action is taken in the present case till February 15, 2023."
The FIR, in this case, was lodged last year in April on the complaint filed by one Himanshu Dixit with the allegations that about 90 persons of Hindu religion have been congregated at Evangelical Church of India, Hariharganj, Fatehpur for the purpose of their conversion to Christianity by putting them under undue influence, coercion and luring them by playing fraud and promise of easy money, etc.
On receiving this information, the Government officers reached the place and interrogated the pastor Vijay Massiah, who allegedly disclosed that the process for conversion was going on for the last 34 days and that this process shall be completed within 40 days.
He also allegedly told that they have been trying to convert even patients admitted to the Mission Hospital and the employees play an active role in the same. Pursuant to this, the Government officers found 35 persons (named in the F.I.R.) and 20 unknown persons as having been involved in this conversion of 90 persons of the Hindu community to Christianity.
The FIR was registered under Sections 153A, 506, 420, 467, 468 I.P.C. and Sections- 3/5(1) of Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Act
The present applicant was not named in the FIR, however, he was implicated at a subsequent stage on the basis of statements given by two interested witnesses and Investigating Officer of the case as being biased against the applicant.
Seeking anticipatory bail in the case, the Senior Counsel appearing for the applicant submitted that he is innocent and has no criminal antecedent to his credit. He next submitted that the informant holds a position in an organization - Vishva Hindu Parishad and some co-accused persons have already been released on bail.
On specific queries raised by the Court over certain cognate issues as argued by the learned Senior Counsel appearing for the applicant and the Additional Advocate General for the State, an adjournment was sought on behalf of both parties for the day.
In fact, the Addl. Advocate General sought some more time to render further assistance in the matter to establish an indiscernible multipronged act of the accused including the collection and siphoning of foreign funds behind the curtain for the divergent purpose of forceful mass conversion of innocent poor and physically impaired persons who are admittedly patients in the Hospital of Mission or are in any manner connected with Missionaries running across the State.
In view of this, the Court posted the matter for further hearing on Feb 16, and till then, granted relief to the applicant on the condition that he appears before the Investigating Officer on 13th & 15th February 2023 and files an undertaking to that effect before the Investigating Officer on 13th February 2023 itself surrendering his passport, if any, to further the investigation.
In related news, the Allahabad High Court in January denied anticipatory bail to a man in this very case. However, the pastor allegedly involved in this case has been granted bail.
Counsel for Applicant: Senior Advocate G.S. Chaturvedi, Advocate Kumar Vikrant,Sr. Advocate
Counsel for Opposite Party: Manish Goel Senior Advocate/Additional Advocate General assisted by AGASs A.K. Sand and Amit Singh Chauhan
Case title - Prof. (Dr.) Rajendra Bihari Lal vs. State of U.P. and Another
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