Gujarat High Court refuses to grant anticipatory bail to man accused of converting Hindus to Islam by allurement

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The Gujarat High Court recently refused to grant anticipatory bail to a man accused of converting people to Islam by alluring them. Allegedly, Varyava Abdul Vahab Mahmood (the bail applicant) in connivance with 5 others, converted around 37 Hindu families and 100 Hindus by providing them financial assistance.

As per the First Information Report(FIR) in the case, for the said purpose of conversion, Mahmood and other accused used to make statements hurting the sentiments of Hindus, and when converted persons used to express their desire to revert to Hinduism, they were threatened with dire consequences.

The bench of Justice B.N. Karia passed the order on the criminal appeal filed by Mahmood. Mahmood had challenged the order dated December 28, 2021 passed by the Principal Sessions Judge (Atrocities), Bharuch denying his anticipatory bail plea in the case registered for the alleged offences punishable under Sections 4, 4C and 5 of the Freedom of Religion At and Sections 120(B), 153(B)(1)(C), 153(A)(1), 295(A), 506(2), 466, 467 and 468 and 471 of the Indian Penal Code and Section 3(2)(5-A) of the Atrocities Act and Section 84C of the Information Technology Act, 2000.

The allegations in FIR stated that the accused persons, in this case, were creating a chain of converted people. Allegedly, they had also converted a house constructed with funds from the Government into a place of worship — Ibadatgaah for propagating their agenda.

Court stressed that it appeared from the statements of the witnesses and investigation papers that Mahmood and other accused converted persons from one religion to another religion by providing cash amount and other articles of their requirements and specifically Mahmood, in addition to providing free education, provided certain articles as water cooler, freeze, chattai for namaj and cash amount to the converted persons.

Court further stated that it appeared that a WhatsApp group was also created wherein through video, speech, chatting, the accused were hurting feelings of one particular community. 

"The Investigating Officer in his affidavits dated 09.12.2021 and 24.12.2021 has specifically alleged that while giving religious speeches/sermons/takrirs by the appellant, he has tried to convert the persons of one religion to another religion which clearly prohibits by Section 3 of the Act.," Court noted.

Therefore, considering the material placed on record, Court declined to accept Mahmood's prayer to release him on anticipatory bail and dismissed his appeal.