Updated: August 12, 2021 10:15:11 pm
A petition has been filed by a woman, her husband and in-laws before the Gujarat High Court, seeking quashing of the FIR against the latter under the amended Gujarat Freedom of Religion (Amendment) Act, 2021 registered by the Vadodara city police in June this year. This was the first such case against the inter-faith marriage under the amended law in the state.
The petition moved by the 24-year old woman, her 21-year-old husband, in-laws, relatives of in-laws and another accused maulvi comes after bail applications of three of the accused were rejected by a Vadodara sessions court. One of the accused in-law was granted bail and another accused relative’s bail application is pending even as three of the accused’s bail pleas were rejected by the Vadodara court in July.
The FIR had charged the accused persons not only for forceful conversion under the Gujarat Freedom of Religion (Amendment) Act, 2021 but also for offences of rape, cruelty to women, unnatural sexual intercourse among other charges under IPC as well as for offences under the Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
A Vadodara sessions court in July had rejected the bail plea of the husband of the complainant. The woman had urged the court to grant her husband bail, with the complainant woman as well as her mother submitting affidavits before the court. As was submitted in the affidavits and recorded in the court order by additionals sessions judge Popatbhai Patel, “…it is stated that, they (complainant woman and her mother) had only stated about the mental and physical torture of applicant (accused husband) and victim’s (complainant woman) in-laws upon her at the Police Station and victim/complainant has not mentioned anything else and she had merely signed the complaint without knowing what was mentioned in the complaint, but when she came to know about the facts mentioned in the complaint from the newspapers, she was surprised. It is accordingly urged to grant the bail application of the applicant / accused.”
In the complaint filed at the Gotri police station in Vadodara, it was alleged that the accused husband had introduced himself as Sam Martin on Instagram in 2018 and forced the complainant woman to establish a physical relationship with him while they were dating. The complaint also alleged that the accused husband had used abusive words against her caste as she belongs to SC/ST caste. As per the complaint, the accused allegedly used intimate photos of the victim to blackmail her to marry him in a “nikah ceremony” and convert to Islam.
While rejecting the husband’s bail, the court had observed, “…prima facie allegations levelled in the complaint are of nature which can be believed at this stage… It also prima facie appears that, signature of the complainant/victim in the complaint and affidavit filed by her… are different. So, possibility of the victim and her parents being threatened cannot be ruled out at this stage.”
“The court has to be very cautious in the bail application of such nature as it relates to the sentiments of the religions and it also prima facie reveals that the allegations leveled in the complaint are true as complainant/victim was raped and she became pregnant and her pregnancy was terminated thrice and her nude photographs were pictured and she was threatened of making the photographs viral. There are also allegations of commission of offence U/s.377 of IPC and sections of Atrocity Act. In view of this, looking to the gravity and seriousness of the offence and the impact of offence in the society and the manner in which complainant/victim is facing threat or fear,…I do find it a fit (case) to reject the present bail application.”
The Vadodara court similarly rejected the bail application of the accused husband’s 39-year-old cousin and the 32-year-old maulvi who performed the nikah ceremony of the couple. The cousin of the accused husband was present at the time of the registration of the marriage and had signed as a witness in the memorandum of understanding between the couple. While rejecting the maulvi’s bail application, the same court had observed, “It is also important to note that, amended Gujarat Freedom of Religion Act, 2003 has come in force and the object of the Act is to deal with the religious conversions through allurement, force or by misrepresentation or by any other fraudulent means and there are cases wherein women are lured for marriage for the purpose of religious conversion. In the present facts and circumstances of the case, though it is a mandatory requirement to follow procedure as per Section – 5 of the Act, wherein any conversion is subject to the consent of the District Magistrate, but in the present case the performance of Nikaha is without following prescribed provisions of law. In view of this, the act of the Moulvi is to be viewed very seriously…”
The 23-year-old sister-in-law of the complainant woman, who has also been arraigned as an accused, was granted bail on the ground of her being a “lady and residing at Halol with her in-laws”. The accused sister-in-law had allegedly compelled the complainant “to put on Burkha and follow the Muslim religion,” as per the complaint.
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