Allahabad High Court grants interim protection to SHUATS V-C in mass conversion case
The Allahabad High Court has granted interim protection to Dr Rajendra Bihari Lal, Vice-Chancellor of Sam Higginbottom University of Agriculture, Technology and Sciences against coercive action in connection with a mass religious conversion case.
A single-judge bench of Justice Manju Rani Chauhan passed this order while hearing a Criminal Misc Anticipatory Bail Application filed by Professor (Dr) Rajendra Bihari Lal.
As per the prosecution case, the first information report was lodged by informant Himanshu Dixit that 90 Hindus have congregated at Evangelical Church of India, Hariharganj, Fatehpur for converting to Christianity under undue influence, coercion and luring them by playing fraud and promise of easy money etc; on receiving the information, the Government officers reached the place and interrogated the pastor Vijay Massiah; he disclosed that the process for conversion was going on for the last 34 days and that this process shall be completed within 40 days; that they have been trying to convert even patients admitted to the Mission Hospital and the employees play an active role in the same; the Government officers found 35 persons (named in the FIR) and 20 unknown persons as having been involved in this conversion of 90 Hindus to Christianity.
The FIR was registered under Sections 153A, 506, 420, 467, 468 IPC and Sections- 3/5(1) of Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Act and the matter was investigated.
The Senior Counsel for the applicant contended that the applicant is not named in the FIR, but has been implicated at subsequent stages on the basis of statements given by two interested witnesses and the Investigating Officer as being biased against the applicant.
He further submitted that the applicant is innocent and has no criminal antecedent to his credit. He next submitted that the informant holds a position in the Vishwa 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 Senior Counsel appearing for the applicant and the Additional Advocate General for the State, an adjournment is sought on behalf of both the parties for the day.
AGA Goel sought some more time to render further assistance in the matter to establish indiscernible multipronged act of the accused including 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.
‘It is provided that if the applicant 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, Investigating Officer shall ensure that neither the applicant be arrested nor any coercive action is taken in the case till 15.2.2023.
It is also directed that the Senior Officials as well as Investigating Officer concerned shall ensure that the applicant be not arrested on 13th and 15th February, 2023 when he comes to cooperate in the investigation,’ the Court ordered.