Allahabad High Court grants protection to man booked under Uttar Pradesh anti-conversion ordinance
Allahabad High Court

Allahabad High Court grants protection to man booked under Uttar Pradesh anti-conversion ordinance

The bench has ordered that the matter will be heard along with the petitions that have challenged the constitutional validity of the said ordinance.

The Allahabad High Court on Friday ordered that no coercive measures should be taken against a person who was booked under the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2020 (Ordinance) which regulates religious conversion (Nadeem v. State of Uttar Pradesh).

A bench of Justices Pankaj Naqvi and Vivek Agarwal was hearing a petition by one Nadeem, to quash the First Information Report (FIR) registered against him.

By way of background, the case against the petitioner was based on the information given by a person who alleged that the petitioner was trying to convert the informant's wife so as to marry her. It was the informant's claim that the petitioner was known to him and used to visit his house often.

Taking undue advantage of acquaintance with the wife of the informant, the petitioner was attempting to persuade her to change her religion so that he could marry her. It was also alleged that the petitioner purchased a mobile phone and gifted it to the wife of the informant.

An FIR was registered against the petitioner for offences under Sections 504, 506 and 120-B of the Indian Penal Code and Section 3 and 5 of the Ordinance based on the information, prompting the petitioner to approach the High Court.

Senior Advocate Syed Farman Ahmad Naqvi, appearing for the petitioner pointed out that the validity of the Ordinance invoked against the petitioner is sub-judice and pending before the High Court itself.

He, however, said that the present case, is with regard to upholding right to privacy as a basic fundamental right under Article 21 of the Constitution.

It was also submitted that the FIR was based on mere suspicion with no material to substantiate the contentions raised therein.

The Court agreed with the same stating that there was no material before the court showing that any coercive process was adopted by the petitioner to convert wife of the informant.

"Victim is admittedly an adult who understands her well being. She as well as the petitioner have a fundamental right to privacy and being grown up adults who are aware of the consequences of their alleged relationship," the Court said.

The Court also extracted Article 25 stating that it provides all persons equal right to freely profess, practice and propagate religion, subject to public order, morality, health and other provisions of Part-III of the Constitution.

The present case, the court said, is one in which all the allegations are prima facie based on suspicion and, therefore, the matter requires consideration.

"Till the next date of listing no coercive measure shall be taken against the petitioner in connection," the court ordered issuing notice to the respondent.

The matter has now been listed for January 7, 2021 before the same Bench which would hear the plea that has challenged the constitutional validity of the said contentious ordinance.

The controversial Ordinance which was promulgated by the UP government in November 2020 has been in the eye of storm for allegedly infringing on personal liberty and choice of an individual.

The Ordinance lays down a detailed procedure to be followed before an individual can convert from one religion to another. Violation of the same entails criminal liability on the individual who undergoes conversion and the individual who converts the person.

The ordinance also states that no person shall convert or attempt to convert either directly or otherwise any other person from one religion to another by use or practice of misrepresentation, force, undue influence, coercion, allurement or by any fraudulent means or by marriage nor shall any person abet, convince or conspire such conversion.

Petitions have already been filed before the Supreme Court and Allahabad High Court challenging the validity of the ordinance.

[Read order]

Nadeem v State of UP and 6 Others CRLP(A)_16302_2020.pdf

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