The Allahabad High Court Friday stayed criminal proceedings against a person from Muzaffarnagar who had been booked under Uttar Pradesh’s new anti-conversion law a day after it was passed, noting that the couple involved were adults with “a fundamental right to privacy”.
“Till the next date of listing no coercive measure shall be taken against the petitioner,” Justices Pankaj Naqvi and Vivek Agarwal said, on a plea by the accused, Nadeem, adding, “Article 25 provides that all persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practice and propagate religion, subject to public order, morality and health and to other provisions of Part III of the Constitution (that covers fundamental rights).”
Noting that the woman concerned was an adult “who understands her well-being”, the court said, “She as well as the petitioner have a fundamental right to privacy and being grown-up adults… are aware of the consequences of their alleged relationship.”
Nadeem, a labourer, had been booked by Mansoorpur Police Station, Muzaffarnagar, on November 29 on a complaint by the husband of the woman, under Sections 3/5 of the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2020, and IPC Sections 120-B (criminal conspiracy), 506 (criminal intimidation), and 504 (intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of peace). The complainant accused Nadeem of wanting to marry his wife, and coercing her to convert. Nadeem had not been arrested in the case.
In its order, the court said, “There is no material before us that any force or coercive process is being adopted by the petitioner to convert (the woman)… all the allegations are prima facie based on suspicion.”
The husband said Nadeem knew his wife and would visit their house, and had gifted her a mobile phone to stay in touch. The complainant and the woman have two children.
Nadeem’s lawyer appealed for “upholding the right of privacy as a basic fundamental right covered by Part III of the Constitution”, and said the FIR was “based on mere suspicion and there is no material to substantiate the contentions raised”.
Additional Government Advocate Manju Thakur, who argued on behalf of the state, confirmed to The Indian Express that criminal proceedings against Nadeem had been stayed.
The court has listed the matter for next hearing on January 7, along with two other petitions filed against the anti-conversion ordinance.