The Supreme Court on Friday, in a Special Leave Petition challenging an order of a Single Judge Bench of the Gujarat High Court, has granted anticipatory bail to a man accused of forceful conversions and promoting enmity between different religious groups. It is pertinent to note that the High Court had earlier refused to entertain the appeal under Section 438 CrPC as no new ground was put forth by the accused. In the appeal before the High Court, the bail was sought under Section 14A of the SC/ST Act 1989.

In the present matter, the accused was alleged of the offences under Sections 4, 5 and 4C of the Gujarat Freedom of Religion Act, 2003, Sections 120B, 153B(c), 506(2), 153A(1), 295A, 466, 467, 468 and 471 of IPC, Sections 3(2)(v) and 3(2)(va) of the SC & ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act and Section 84C of I.T. Act.

A bench of Justice C.T. Ravikumar and Justice Sudhanshu Dhulia while hearing the matter issued notice to the respondent-State.

Senior Advocate I.H. Syed appeared for the petitioner.

The FIR was registered on November 15, 2021, pursuant to which the appellant had preferred an application seeking anticipatory bail before the Sessions Court.

However, the same was rejected. Thereafter, the appellant had approached the High Court in an appeal. The same was disposed of as withdrawn through an order dated October 21, 2022.

Accordingly, a bench of Justice Samir J. Dave of the Gujarat High Court observed in the impugned order, “No new ground has been shown by the appellant in this appeal. Hence, the appeal is not entertained and is, accordingly, dismissed”.

Section 3 of the Gujarat Freedom of Religion Act, 2003 prohibits forcible conversion, whereas Section 4 of the Act reads as, “Whoever contravenes the provision of section 3 shall, without prejudice to any civil liability, be punished with imprisonment for a term, which may extend to three years and also be liable to fine, which may extend to rupees fifty thousand: Provided that whoever contravenes the provisions of section 3 in respect of a minor, a woman or a person belonging to Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to four years and also be liable to fine which may extend to rupees one lakh”.

The bench will hear the matter after 4 weeks.

Cause Title: Muhammad Bilal Muhammad Iqbal Memon v. The State Of Gujarat & Anr.

Click here to read/download the Order