Saturday, December 9, 2023

Allahabad High Court denies bail to man accused of running mass conversion racket in Uttar Pradesh

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The Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court has refused bail to Mohammad Umar Gautam, who was arrested last year on the allegations of running a mass conversion racket in Uttar Pradesh and converting the religion of a thousand people.

The Division Bench of Justice Ramesh Sinha and Justice Saroj Yadav passed this order while hearing a Criminal Appeal filed by Md Umar Gautam.

The Criminal Appeal has been filed by the appellant Mohd Umar Gautam, under Section 21 (4) of the National Investigation Agency Act, 2008, challenging the order dated 05.05.2022 of refusal of bail to the appellant by the Special Judge, NIA/ATS/Additional District & Sessions Judge, Lucknow.

The facts of the case are that an FIR was lodged as Case on 20.06.2021 at 11.35 hours at Police Station ATS Gomti Nagar, District Lucknow for offences under Sections 420, 120-B, 153-A, 153-B, 295-A, 511 IPC and 3/5 U.P Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Act, 2021 against the appellant, Mufti Qazi Jahangir Qasmi, Chairman of Islamic Dawah Centre (IDC) and unknown persons.

The allegations against the appellant are that he was involved in promoting enmity between different groups of religion and disturbing the sovereignty and integrity of India by influencing the non-Muslim sects to convert and to embrace Islam.

The appellant procured the funds from different donors into his organization to achieve the said objective.

It is further averred in the FIR that on the information received through FIR/Case which was registered under Sections 419, 420, 506 IPC at Police Station Masuri, District Ghaziabad, it came into light that the appellant-Mohd Umar Gautam, who is a converted Muslim, is involved in getting the people of another religion converted into Islam on large scale and about 1000 non-Muslims have been converted and married with Muslims.

Further, it is stated that the accused-appellant and his associates are running an organization, namely, Islamic Dawah Centre (IDC) for the said purpose of conversion and a huge fund is being provided to Islamic Dawah Centre (IDC) from different sources including foreign countries.

It also came into picture that the students of Deaf and Dumb School, namely, NOIDA Deaf Society, have been converted in illegal manner by practicing misrepresentation, allurement and fraudulent means. On enquiry, it was found that a Case was registered under Section 364 IPC for kidnapping of one Aditya Gupta by his mother, who states that his son was forcibly converted and was taken to a place in southern part of India.

During the investigation of the case, it was found that the accused-appellant had created a gang for the aforesaid aim and object and Irfan Shaikh @ Irfan Khan, who was working as an Interpreter in Sign Language Training and Research Centre, New Delhi, was a vital link of this syndicate as it transpires from FIR of Case that the appellant was involved in the incident which took place on 02.06.2021 at Hindu Temple “Devi Mandir Dasna” situated at Masoori, district Ghaziabad wherein it was alleged that two Muslim boys entered the temple with an intention to harm the priest “Guru Yati Narshinhanand Saraswati Ji” for which an FIR was lodged against the appellant on 03.06.2021.

During the course of investigation, Sections 121-A, 123, 417, 298 IPC and Section 8 of U.P Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Act, 2021 were added, while Sections 420 and 511 IPC were omitted by the Investigating Agency.

After investigation, the ATS has submitted first charge chargesheet on 13.08.2021 under Sections 120-B, 153-A, 153-B, 295- A, 417, 298 IPC and Sections 3, 5, 8 of U.P Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Act, 2021 against Salahuddin Jainuddin Sheikh, the appellant, Mufti Qazi Jahangir Qazmi, Mannu Yadav alias Abdul Mannan, Rahul Bhola alias Rahul Ahmad, Irfan Shaikh @ Irfan Khan, whereas second supplementary charge sheet was filed on 17.09.2021 under Sections 120-B read with Sections 153-A, 153-B, 295-A, 417, 298, 121-A and 123 IPC and Sections 3, 5, 8 of UP Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Act, 2021 against the appellant, Salahuddin Jainuddin Sheikh, Mufti Qazi Jahangir Qazmi, and Irfan Shaikh @ Irfan Khan and in the said charge sheet, offences under Sections 121-A and 123 IPC have been added against the aforesaid accused.

The appellant thereafter moved a bail application before the Special Court, NIA/ATS, Lucknow and the same was dismissed by the impugned order dated 05.05.2022 and being aggrieved by the same, the applicant has preferred the Appeal under Section 21 (4) of Act of 2008.

It has been vehemently argued by the counsel for appellant that the applicant-appellant is an educated and law abiding citizen and is working as Lecturer in Jamia Millia University since 1991. He was also engaged in charitable work and also associated with NGOs.

He created a separate Charitable Trust (NGO) in the name of “Fatima Charitable Foundation” in the year 2007 having its Registered Office at New Delhi. Under the aegis of said Charitable Trust, an Islamic Dawah Center (IDC) was established at New Delhi with sole objective to help the needy and unprivileged people by providing them financial aid, education, medical facilities and other basic facilities irrespective of their religion.

It has been argued that the appellant is innocent and has been falsely implicated in the instant case by the Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS), Lucknow in an arbitrary manner without any credible or reliable evidence with the sole objective to satisfy ulterior motives and to achieve mischievous political gains.

It is further contended that no incriminating material has been recovered from the appellant and not even a single witness or convertee has ever alleged use of force, misrepresentation, coercion or any kind of allurement offered by the appellant.

It was further argued that in the entire process of hatching a conspiracy to implicate the appellant, the police failed to adduce a single person who could have made allegations of forceful conversion against the appellant or any member of the Society run by the appellant.

Per contra, Additional Government Advocate, on the other hand, has vehemently opposed the prayer for bail and has submitted that the appellant is running a syndicate alongwith other accused persons in the name of Islamic Dawah Centre (IDC) for the purpose of conversion of people of other religion into Islam and huge fund is being provided to Islamic Dawah Centre (IDC) from different sources including foreign countries and the appellant had converted large number of non-Muslim persons to Islam and had got them married with Muslims and in this regard, he had referred to an FIR which has been registered as Case on 03.06.2021 under Sections 419, 420, 295-A/505/506 IPC at Police Station Masuri, District Ghaziabad against one Vipul Vijay Vargiya and Kasif.

The Court observed that,

Prima facie, it transpires from the record that the appellant has admitted that he is running an organization in the name of Islamic Dawah Centre (IDC) which welcomes people who embrace Islam and he has engaged his associates who are coaccused persons in the case by preparing documents for conversion of a person belonging to another religion for embracing Islam and he has categorically stated in his bail application that the said conversion was being carried out by his organization, who embraces Islam voluntarily without any coercion, undue influence or allurement and the said conversion was being carried out by him for the last so many years.

It is true that the allegations which have been levelled against the appellant and the co-accused persons that the conversion made by the appellant through his Organization were prior to enforcement of Act of 2021 which came into force with effect from 27.11.2021, but the nature of allegations which have been levelled against the appellant and his Organization and the material collected, during the course of investigation, goes to show that the appellant alongwith co-accused persons was running a syndicate and getting the persons of other religion converted into Islam unlawfully.

He was seen giving hatred speech and using derogatory language towards other religions as some-video links of YouTube have been collected during the course of investigation, which otherwise reflect the innocence of the appellant. The Anti-Terrorist Squad has further collected the bank details wherein the Organization of the appellant was receiving funds from foreign countries to propagate the aims and objects of the Organization of the appellant for converting people of other religion into Islam for increasing the population of the country of Muslims and in this regard, the statements of witnesses, namely, Aditya Gupta, Mohit @ Moin, Dipanshu, Tushar, Navin @ Naved, Mohd. Shabba, accused Mannu Yadav and accused Rahul Bhola disclose and establish the fact of illegal conversion.

“Thus, keeping in mind the act and conduct of the appellant, it cannot be said that he is innocent. On the other hand, the evidence collected during of course of Investigation by AntiTerrorist Squad (ATS) and charge sheet submitted against the appellant, reflects that he was carrying-on anti-national activities with the help of anti-social elements for achieving nefarious design which would weaken the social fabric of the country and developed and spread hatredness amongst the people of different religions which would disturb the public tranquility and public order. He has also received a huge sum of money in his personal accounts from different sources including foreign countries.

Considering the contention of the State Counsel that if the appellant is released on bail, there is every likelihood that he would again indulge in such activities, which would be prejudicial to the national integration of the country, also has substance, hence we do not find any good ground for enlarging the appellant on bail, which is accordingly refused”, the Court further observed.

“Accordingly, while affirming the order dated 05.05.2022, the Criminal Appeal of the appellant-Mohd Umar Gautam, involved in Case under Sections 120B, 121A, 123, 153A, 153B, 295A, 298, 417 IPC and Section 3/5/8 U.P Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, (Act), 2021, P.S ATS U.P, District Lucknow, is dismissed.

Considering the facts and circumstances of the case, the Trial Court concerned is directed to proceed with the trial and conclude the same, expeditiously, preferably, within one year, from the date of receipt of a certified copy of the order”, the Court ordered.

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