Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Illegal conversion: Supreme Court adjourns bail plea of government interpreter to February 22

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The Supreme Court on Wednesday adjourned to February 22, the bail petition of a Central government interpreter, who was arrested under Section 121A of the Indian Penal Code (conspiracy to wage war against India) and the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Act for illegally converting around 450 people to Islam.

The Bench of Justice Aniruddha Bose and Justice Sudhanshu Dhulia were hearing bail petition of one Irfan Shaikh alias Irfan Khan, who was accused of converting around 450 speech and hearing impaired persons, while working at the Sign Language Training and Research Centre in New Delhi as interpreter. 

The petition challenged the Allahabad High Court order of April 5, 2022, which denied him bail on the grounds that Irfan had misused his official position and was involved in anti-national activities. 

Appearing for the petitioner, Advocate Nitya Ramakrishnan contended that it was not that conversion was banned, but the UP Unlawful Conversion Act did not apply in this case.

She said those who were converted were inclined towards Islam on their own accord. Citing one example, the Counsel said two people converted on their own will in Delhi and got married.

Stating that Irfan was only an interpreter, the Counsel asked the reason for booking the petitioner under Section 121A (waging war against India). She alleged that the bank account mentioned by the police did not belong to Irfan. The Counsel prayed for bail, stating that the petitioner’s custody was no longer required. 

Appearing for the National Investigation Agency (NIA), Additional Solicitor General (ASG) K.M. Nataraj contended that trial in the case had commenced and directions could be issued by the top court of the country for concluding the same withing 3-6 months. 

ASG Nataraj submitted that the issue would have a serious impact on the secular fabric of the country and the society as well.

By misusing his position as a government servant, Irfan used sign language to allure innocent people. He even received foreign funds, submitted the ASG, adding that there was an entire syndicate involved in this. 

As per the ASG, Irfan told his victims that he was doing so on behalf of the government. 
Ramakrishnan then said that it was not even the case of NIA in their counter that the petitioner had converted all these people.

The Bench, while noting that the petitioner had remained in jail for more than a year, asked the ASG whether Irfan’s custody was really required.
The ASG said that he would get back after two weeks with the latest status in the case.

The Apex Court then adjourned the matter to February 22.

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