Supreme Court Grants Interim Protection From Arrest to University VC Booked For Mass Conversion
The Supreme Court today granted interim protection against arrest on the plea filed by the Vice Chancellor and Director of the former Allahabad Agricultural University who are accused in a religious conversion case.
The Sam Higginbottom University of Agriculture, Technology, and Sciences (SHUATS), formerly known as Allahabad Agricultural Institute is a Christian Minority Institution situated in Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh.
“Issue Notice returnable after 3 weeks. Pending further orders, there shall be a stay of the arrest of the petitioner,” ordered a Bench led by Chief Justice DY Chandrachud and comprising Justice PS Narasimha and Justice JB Pardiwala.
Senior Advocate Siddharth Dave, submitted before the Court that the FIR pertains to an incident of April 15, in which the petitioners were not named.
“Who is your client?” queried the Court. “My client is the Vice-Chancellor of Sam Higginbottom University, which is a deemed agricultural university. Second one is the Director of University,” replied the Senior Advocate Dave.
He further apprised the Court that the FIR was lodged in Fatehpur (another district of Uttar Pradesh) by some organization alleging that religious conversions were taking place. Eight months later, the petitioner who is located in Allahabad was given 41A Notice, he said.
“Thereafter, they (Uttar Pradesh Police) come, they raid my University. They issued non-bailable warrants. I am not named in chargesheet. Chargesheet is filed qua other accused persons. I have joined the investigation. They say 2 people now have given 164 (CrPC) statements. They (who gave statements under 164 CrPC) have said that the University is involved in the mass conversions, please enquire into this,” he said on the query of the Court as to the nature of allegations against the petitioners.
After hearing Counsel, the Supreme Court issued Notice and stayed the arrest of the petitioners till further orders of the Court.
“After the miscellaneous, we will take it up. Get the three copies ready,” said a Bench led by the CJI DY Chandrachud when the matter was mentioned by Senior Advocate Dave for an urgent hearing in the morning.
Recently, the Allahabad High Court denied anticipatory bail to the accused persons saying that the intent of the accused persons behind the charitable works appears to be dubious affecting the interest of a marginal section of society, the object of law, and the impact of the same on society
A Single Bench of Justice Manju Rani Chauhan noted that the power under Section 438 of the Cr.PC. cannot be utilized in a routine manner as a substitute for regular bail and that such a discretionary power calls for the existence of facts of the kind where the court is satisfied that its interference is necessary to further the cause of justice and to prevent misuse of process of law.
An FIR was lodged by Uttar Pradesh Police under Sections 153-A, 506, 420, 467, 468, and 471 of the Indian Penal Code and Sections 3 & 5(1) of the U.P. Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Act, 2021.
It was alleged in the police complaint that about 90 persons of Hindu religion were 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.
After the receipt of the information, the Government officers reached the place and interrogated the pastor who disclosed that the process for conversion was going on for the last 34 days and that such process shall be completed within 40 days. It was further disclosed that they have been trying to convert even the patients admitted to the Mission Hospital and the employees have played an active role in the same. The Government officers found 35 persons and 20 unknown persons as having been involved in such conversion and FIR were registered against all of them.