Updated: July 1, 2021 6:50:31 pm
The Delhi High Court Thursday directed the Delhi Police to ensure protection of a 29-year-old woman, who alleged she was being threatened and harrassed by the Uttar Pradesh police, certain media organisations and vigilante groups for converting to Islam.
The vacation bench Justice C Hari Shankar, while directing listing of the woman’s case before a roster bench on July 5, directed the police to take adequate steps to protect her life and safety till the matter is taken up by the regular bench.
“This is a matter which appropriately should be taken by the regular bench as per the roster, given the nature of the averments in the petition. It is made clear that this vacation bench is not expressing any opinion one way or the other regarding the correctness of the said averments,” said the court.
Advocate Sameer Vashist, representing the police, earlier told the court that attempts were made to contact the woman at the address provided in the petition but she could not be traced. Advocate Tanya Agarwal, representing the woman, told the court that given the apprehensions, she has had to repeatedly change the address and will provide the current location to the counsel representing the police.
The woman has approached the court seeking her and her family’s safety as well as protection of her privacy. Stating that she resides in Delhi but originally belongs to UP’s Shahjahanpur, her counsel Kamlesh Kumar Mishra in the plea said, “Owing to her conversion of religion, she and her family are being targeted and malicious contents about her is being published in the media everyday which needs to be immediately stopped”.
According to the petition, the woman converted to Islam on May 27 “with my own free will and without any threat or coercion from anyone”. However, the plea adds that she has been getting telephone calls from “different media persons” since June 23 threatening to publish news about her conversion. One of the persons forcefully took Rs 20,000 from the woman, alleges the petition.
“Several news reports appeared in the small time news papers and news portals in UP with regard to the conversion of the petitioner giving completely absurd and imaginary details,” reads the petition, while specifically referring to one article printed by OpIndia portal.
A complaint was made to Delhi Police on June 24 but no action has been taken yet, the woman has alleged.
The petition also states that the woman on June 26 was informed that her father has been “taken away by the officials of the Uttar Pradesh Police and they are coming to Delhi and would take her back to Uttar Pradesh where she would be forced to file false complaint/FIR”.
Besides seeking protection, the woman has also prayed that she be not taken away from the jurisdiction of the Delhi HC “by force or coercion and or by way of any other illegal means by the agencies of the state or any other person and protection”.
“Matters of belief and faith, including whether to believe, are at the core of constitutional liberty. The Constitution exists for believers as well as for agnostics. The Constitution protects the ability of each individual to pursue a way of life or faith to which she or he seeks to adhere,” contends the petition.
It also seeks a direction that state agencies of UP do not harass her an or any other person who have not converted in the state of UP and on whom the provisions of the UP Prohibition of Unlawful Religious Conversion Ordinance, 2020 do not apply.
OpIndia’s CEO Rahul Roshan told The Indian Express that the story carried by the Hindi portal of OpIndia was “clearly based on various mainstream media sources” and no “additional assertions” were added by its editors. “Therefore, specifically singling out OpIndia is weird and a story lies therein itself about how legal cases are used to build a specific narrative to target specific publications. Nonetheless, we’re on the right side of law and thus we’ll take care of it within the ambit of Indian laws,” he said.
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