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Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Gujarat Freedom of Religion (Amendment)Act, 2021: HC notice to state govt on petition seeking consensual quashing of FIR

With the offences being non-compoundable, the court of Justice Ilesh Vora allowed the state, represented by public prosecutor Mitesh Amin, to respond to the contentions raised by the petitioners and kept the matter for further hearing on September 20.

By: Express News Service | Ahmedabad |
Updated: September 9, 2021 6:41:36 am
Gujarat High Court

The Gujarat High Court on Wednesday issued notice to the state government after it objected to petition seeking quashing of the first FIR registered under the Gujarat Freedom of Religion (Amendment) Act, 2021. The complainant and the accused have moved the court seeking consensual quashing of the FIR registered in Vadodara in June.

With the offences being non-compoundable, the court of Justice Ilesh Vora allowed the state, represented by public prosecutor Mitesh Amin, to respond to the contentions raised by the petitioners and kept the matter for further hearing on September 20.

The FIR was lodged at Gotri police station in Vadodara on June 17, after the amended Gujarat Freedom of Religion Act of 2003 came into force on June 15. The accused were booked under provisions of the Indian Penal Code, the amended Gujarat Freedom of Religion Act and Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.

The complainant, a 24-year-old woman from the Scheduled Caste, alleged that her 21-year-old husband had introduced himself with an assumed name on Instagram in 2018 and forced her to establish a physical relationship with him while they were dating. The complaint also said that the man used abusive words against her caste and used her intimate photos to blackmail her to marry him and convert.

However, a consent quashing petition was moved before the Gujarat HC on the ground that the FIR is an “incorrect, untrue and exaggerated version of the information” given by the woman complainant which “arose out of a petty and trivial domestic matrimonial dispute”, and that the said issue has since been resolved between the parties and the couple wishes to continue with their marital relations.

According to the petition, the couple got to know each other in 2019 and on February 8 this year, they executed an undertaking with the woman’s father and the man’s mother as witnesses, for registering their marriage under the Special Marriage Act (SMA). A week later, the two married in the presence of their families. On February 19, the couple executed a joint affidavit declaring the facts of their wedding ceremony, particularly stating that the same was without any force or coercion.

In March, the couple’s marriage application under SMA was processed and was registered with a certificate issued. As per the petition, subsequently, some trivial issues arose between the couple and the wife left for her parents’ place before filing a complaint at the Gotri police station.

The petition stated that the woman had not complained of the offences pertaining to IPC, Freedom of Religion Act and Atrocities Act and yet these offences were incorporated in the FIR “as if the informant (woman) complained/informed about the same… in the FIR, completely incorrect and untrue facts with respect to forcible sexual intercourse… is recorded… Further alleged forcible conversion and using casteist slurs… no such allegations were made by the informant (woman)”.

The petition also points out that while the husband’s mother, who was a witness was arraigned as an accused, the woman’s father, who too was a witness, was not named an accused. “The same makes it evident that the entire action of police is communally biased,” submits the petition.

Petitioners for the consent quashing petition includes the complainant, as well as the accused husband, in-laws and other relatives of the husband, named as accused. The petitioner woman was present in the courtroom of Justice Ilesh Vora on Wednesday and confirmed before the court that the facts of the affidavit so far as settlement is concerned were true.

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