Religious conversion case: HC asks SHUATS VC, others to surrender before it

 The Allahabad High Court has refused to quash an FIR registered against the vice-chancellor and other officials of an agriculture university in connection with a case of illegal religious conversion and directed them to surrender before it by December 20 for regular bail.

They, including Sam Higginbottom University of Agriculture Technology and Science (SHUATS) vice-chancellor Rajendra Bihari Lal and director Vinod Bihari Lal, are accused of persuading a woman to adopt Christianity by offering her a job and other allurements.

Disposing of a petition filed by the VC, the director and four others, a division bench comprising justices Rahul Chaturvedi and Mohd Azhar Husain Idrisi observed that “no God or true church or temple or mosque would approve such type of malpractices”.

“If someone on his own has chosen to get himself converted to a different religion is totally another aspect of the issue. In the instant case prevailing upon a tender mind of a young girl providing gifts, clothing and other physical amenities and then asking her to get her baptised is an unpardonable sin,” the court said.

The officials, including the VC, have been booked under sections of the Indian Penal Code, including 376D (gang rape), and those of the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Act, 2021, and the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act. The FIR was registered at the Bewar police station of Hamirpur district on November 4 on a complaint from the woman.

The woman is from a lower-middle class family and was allegedly trapped by another woman, who took her to church regularly, according to the FIR. The victim has alleged that she was regularly sexually exploitated by the accused and was persuaded and pressured to bring other women for conversion and other illegal works.

The plea taken by the petitioners’ counsel was that the victim was offered a job at SHUATS and she was sacked from service in 2022. Hence, by way of retaliation, she had tailored a story, as mentioned in the FIR, just to rope in all the higher officials of the university, including the VC, the plea stated.

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While refusing to quash the FIR, the court said the allegations levelled in the FIR are extremely serious and horrifying as the accused exploited her financial position and allured her to change sides and succeeded, and thereafter, prevailed upon her.

Besides this, the allegations levelled in the FIR are not only abhorring but distasteful, whereby, she has narrated her sad story of sexual exploitation, it said.

However, without making any verdict upon the outcome of the investigation, the court in its order dated December 11 directed the Hamirpur superintendent of police to personally supervise the probe being done by three senior police officers of circle officer rank with utmost transparency.

It also directed the SP to objectively conduct the investigation and probe into the matter to its core within 90 days and submit a report before the magistrate.

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