The Allahabad High Court has recently dismissed a plea that sought cancellation and quashing of FIR against 37 people accused of coercing a man to undergo religious conversion from Hinduism to Christianity through inducements.

A case was registered against the accused persons for the offences punishable under Sections 420, 467, 468, 506, and 120-B of the IPC and Section 3/5 (1) of the U.P. Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Act, 2021.

A Division Bench of Justice Anjani Kumar Mishra and Justice Gajendra Kumar held, “Since, the first information report dated 15.04.2022 had not been lodged by a person competent to lodge it, it is of no consequence. For the same reason, the impugned first information report cannot be called a second first information report. It therefore, cannot be said that there are two separate first information reports of the same incident. The case at hand therefore, is not covered by the ratio in K.K. Anthony (supra).”

The Bench noted that the FIR impugned in the writ petition is by a competent person and that it contains ingredients of a cognizable offence.

“The various categories of person enumerated in Section 4, who are competent to lodge the first information report are any aggrieved person. The words "any aggrieved person" at the very start of the said section can be interpreted to mean any person, especially since there is no provision under the I.P.C. or Cr.P.C., which bars or prohibits any person from lodging a first information report regarding cognizable offence”, the Court said.

The Court also said that the FIR was not the subject matter of the writ petition and that if the argument of the counsel for the State is accepted, the FIR is manifestly incompetent.

Senior Advocates Dilip Kumar and Sagar Mehrotra appeared for the petitioners while AAG Manish Goel appeared for the State.

In this case, the first informant was one of the witnesses whose statement was recorded by the police under Section 161 of the Cr.P.C. The accused in both FIRs were the same barring one or two persons. Only the informant in both cases was different. Both cases alleged mass religious conversion by fraud, coercion, and allurement.

The High Court in the above regard observed, “The only material difference in the two first information reports is that the first was lodged by an office bearer of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad while the impugned first information report has been lodged by one Virendra Kumar, who underwent religion conversion allegedly on account of fraud, misrepresentation, coercion and inducements.”

The Court further noted that the embargo under Section 4 as to who can lodge an FIR regarding an offence under Section 3 of the Act is absolute.

“… the words " any aggrieved person" in our considered opinion is qualified by the subsequent categories and the words his, her parents, brother, sisters or blood relations by marriage and adoption included. ... The scope of the said term is completely whittled down by subsequent categories and therefore, it has to be said that any aggrieved person would be a person but is personally aggrieved by his or her fraudulent conversion be it an individual or in a mass conversion ceremony. Any interpretation to the contrary would render the remainder of Section 4 after the words "any aggrieved person " wholly redundant and also render the Section itself completely meaningless”, asserted the Court.

The Court, therefore, said that the impugned first information report is not liable to be quashed.

“It has already been observed in the earlier part of this order that the allegations in the first information report impugned, contain ingredients of a cognizable offence”, the Court also said.

Accordingly, the Court dismissed the plea of the accused persons.

Cause Title- Jose Prakash George And 36 Others v. Jose Prakash George And 36 Others

Click here to read/download the Order