Muslim man charged under Gujarat’s Freedom of Religion Act refused bail

The Gujarat High Court has previously stayed the operation of eight sections of the new Act, including Section 4, under which the man was charged.

A Rajkot court has refused to grant bail to a 31-year-old Muslim man, accused of forcible conversion under the amended Gujarat Freedom of Religion Act. The order came after the Gujarat High Court stayed the operation of eight sections of the new Act, including Section 4, under which the man was charged.

In the first case registered in Saurashtra under the amended Act that came into force on June 15 this year, a garage owner in Dhoraji town of Rajkot was booked for allegedly raping a married woman and trying to force her to convert to Islam. He allegedly befriended her after claiming he was an unmarried man, despite being married with three children. The FIR was filed by a 29-year old Hindu woman on July 11 and also accused the man of repeated rape (IPC section 36 (2) (n)) and criminal intimidation (IPC section 506 (2)).

As recorded in the court’s order, based on the contents of the FIR, the complainant, who is also married and has a daughter aged four years, had met the accused at his garage when she went to get her two-wheeler repaired. After exchanging numbers, the two continued to be in touch and, as per the FIR, the woman at that time “was not maintaining good relations with her husband.”

As alleged in the FIR, the two developed a physical relationship and the woman was under the impression that the man is unmarried. According to the FIR, after the complainant realised the accused is married, he had allegedly told her that if she embraces Islam he will divorce his first wife and marry her. It was further alleged in the FIR that an attempt was made to convert the victim by forcing her to read “Kalima” from a maulvi through Instagram.

After registering the FIR, the complainant had also submitted a supplementary complaint to the police station alleging that the accused has taken intimate photographs and is now being allegedly threatened by him to withdraw the case.

Advocate KM Mehta, representing the accused, had told the court that both the complainant and the accused are adults and the relationship was consensual. He added that the accused had never misrepresented his religion. Mehta claimed that since the woman’s husband had come to know of the relationship, “she has filed a false complaint and raised these allegations.” It was also pointed out that the provisions of the Gujarat Freedom of Religion (Amendment) Act, 2021, had been stayed by the Gujarat HC.

Government counsel KM Parekh, however, opposed the bail application saying that the Gujarat HC’s stay on certain provisions of the Act are conditional, and prima facie offence of rape is made out.

Finding merit in the prosecution’s arguments and considering the nature of allegations and offence, the Additional Sessions Judge of Dhoraji court in Rajkot, RM Sharma, rejected the bail application on September 8.

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