Allahabad High Court refuses to quash FIR lodged against Vice Chancellor of Sam Higginbottom University

The Allahabad High Court has refused to quash an FIR lodged against the Vice Chancellor and other higher officials of the Sam Higginbottom University of Agriculture Technology and Science (SHUATS) accused of persuading a woman to adopt Christianity by offering her a job and other allurements.

The Division Bench of Justice Rahul Chaturvedi and Justice Mohd Azhar Husain Idrisi passed this order while hearing a petition filed by Rajendra Bihari Lal and 6 Others.

The petition is being filed by the seven petitioners. All the petitioners are jointly invoking the extraordinary powers of the court enshrined under Article 226 of the Constitution of India with the prayer :-

“I. Issue a writ, order or direction in the nature of certiorari for quashing the first information report dated 04.11.2023 as case under Sections 328, 376D, 365, 506 IPC, Section 3/5(1) of U.P Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Act, 2021 and section 5 of Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956, Police Station-Bewar, District- Hamirpur.

II. Issue an order or direction in the nature of mandamus directing the respondent not to arrest the petitioners in case under Sections 328, 376D, 365, 506 IPC, Section 3/5(1) of U.P Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Act, 2021 and section 5 of Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956, Police Station-Bewar, District- Hamirpur.

III. Issue a writ, order or direction, which the Court may deem fit and proper under the facts and circumstances of the case; and

IV. Award the cost of the writ petition to the petitioner.”

It is clear that a writ of certiorari was prayed for quashing of the FIR dated 04.11.2023, P.S Bewar, District Hamirpur and also writ of mandamus as an ancillary writ seeking a direction from this Court to the respondent authorities not to arrest the petitioner named above pursuant to the above case crime at P.S Bewar, Hamirpur.

The Factual Aspect of the issue, it has been contended that though the FIR was registered way back on 04.11.2023 at police station Bewar, Hamirpur but the investigation yet to see the final day and the investigating officer is yet to file his report under Section 173(2) CrPC.

The respondent no4 is the informant as well as victim of the case.

After reading the contents of the FIR, it has clearly been culled out that the victim has suffered lots of atrocities mentally as well as physically by the hands of petitioners-accused. There was a yawning gap between the financial, social status of the accused-petitioners vis-a-vis the respondent no 4 and as such she was subjected to mental and physical atrocities by the petitioners.

Every sentence of the FIR is a sad saga of the atrocities faced by the respondent no 4/victim during this period and she was not permitted to open her mouth as the accused-petitioners are head and shoulders above in all aspects of life. Anyhow after mustering much of the courage, she has succeeded in lodging the FIR on 04.11.2023 at police station Bewar, District Hamirpur.

Counsel for the petitioner while denying the allegation contained in the FIR submits that no offence whatsoever is being made out against the petitioner.

Counsel for the petitioners have also submitted, that for the incident said to have taken place in November 2005, the FIR was registered on 04.11.2023 of which there is no plausible justification is coming forward to explain this inordinate delay.

Aggrieved by this illegal termination, respondent no 4 has approached the Court by means of Writ-A (Saroj Kumar Vs Union of India and 5 others).

It is alleged that the order was passed on 13.10.2022 and almost after a year, she has succeeded in lodging the impugned FIR on 04.11.2023 under Sections 328, 376D, 365, 506 IPC and Section 3/5(1) of U.P Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Act,2021 and Section 5 of the Immoral Traffic (Prevention Act) 1956. Thus there is no proximity between the two incidents.

From the FIR, it has surfaced that the respondent no 4 is an alumnus of Allahabad University and has completed her B.A in November 2005. During her student days, she met another girl Rekha Patel, who used to allure her fellow girls by providing lots of gifts and other articles of their choice. The respondent no 4 belongs to the lower middle class, was also trapped in ploy/trap of Rekha Patel, who has taken her to Yeshua Tabernacle Church in Muirabad, where Pastor Ivan Dass, R.B. Lal, Imtiyaz Ahmad, David Philip, Vinod B Lal and Ramakant Dubey were already present.

It is urged by AGA that this was a typical modus operandi of any Church to get the girl converted and imbibing the Christianity.

The tender mind of respondent no 4 was brainwashed by the higher priest of the church and persuaded her to adopt christianity by offering her a job. So that her future would be secure and she would be regularly attending the church.

The Court observed that,

It is beyond doubt that the allegations levelled in the FIR are extremely serious and horrifying that the accused petitioners have exploited her financial position and allured her to change the side and have succeeded and thereafter prevailed upon her. No God or true Church or Temple or Mosque would approve such type of malpractices. If someone, on his own, has chosen to get him converted to a different religion is totally another aspect of the issue.

In the case prevailing upon a tender mind of a young girl providing gifts, clothings and other physical amenities and then asking her to get her baptised is an unpardonable sin. No true religion on the earth would endorse such type of malpractices by the priest or the Godmen. Besides this, the allegation levelled in the FIR is not only abhorring but distasteful, whereby she has narrated her sad story of sexual exploitation.

We are at the prenatal stage of the case and after reading the allegation made therein, we cannot shut our eyes closed and install the investigation of the case as contemplated in the judgement of Neeharika Infrastructure (supra) that the police has got a statutory rights and duty under the relevant provisions of Cr.P.C under Chapter XIV of the Code to investigate into the cognizable offence and the court should shun away to thwart any investigation into the cognizable offence.

It is only in the cases, where no cognizable offence or offence of any kind is disclosed in the FIR that court would not permit an investigation to go on. The powers of quashing should be exercised in the “rarest of the rare case” sparingly and in exceptional circumstances, as mentioned above in the month of November 2023, she has succeeded in lodging the FIR. Indeed there is delay in lodging of the FIR, but as compared with the allegation made therein we are unable to accept the contention raised by the counsel for the petitioners that there is inordinate delay in lodging of the FIR.

"As mentioned above, there is no level playing ground between the contesting parties. Her opponents’ are formidable ones. All these are subject matter of investigation and this could not be a ground of quashing of FIR.

The quantum of threat extended to her by the accused-petitioners is apparent from her 164 CrPC statement.

Infact, the 164 Cr.P.C statement of the victim is a sad saga faced by her. The bundle load of atrocities upon which she was constantly subjected to all sorts of harassment but she was asked not to dare and open her mouth or make a complaint. At this stage, it would be unjust and improper to stall the investigation by the police. This a brutal and heinous crime against women. Infact, it is too far to imagine that for a sake of retaliation a lady would put her dignity and honour to the stake and make it public, just to falsely implicate the accused petitioners. For a lady, dignity and honour is a valuable and nonnegotiable asset", the Court further observed while disposing the petition.

"However, we are not making any verdict upon the final outcome of the investigation, we are expecting that the S.P,Hamirpur would personally supervise the investigation done by the three senior Police Officials of the C.O. rank of Hamirpur, after holding investigation with utmost transparency and objectively would conduct an investigation and probe into the matter to its core within a specific time frame, say about 90 days from today, and submit a report under Section 173(2) CrPC before concerned Magistrate.

Since the petitioners are accused of heinous offences, we direct that they should surrender before the Majesty of the Court on or before 20.12.2023 and apply for regular bail. The bail application of the accused petitioner shall be heard and decided by the court concerned thoroughly on merits as expeditiously as possible unaffected by any of the observations made above. Similarly, the S.I.T/I.O of the case too would not sway away from any of the observations made above, and come to the conclusion after thrashing the material collected during investigation.

Under circumstances we are afraid to quash the FIR and gag the investigation proceeding at this primitive stage, where after reading the FIR a serious cognizable offence is made against the accused-petitioners", the order reads.