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Illegal conversion case: Supreme Court grants interim bail to Uttar Pradesh’s SHUATS university vice chancellor

The Supreme Court on Monday granted interim bail to vice chancellor of Uttar Pradesh’s Sam Higginbottom University of Agriculture, Technology and Sciences (SHUATS), Rajendra Bihari Lal in a case related to alleged illegal religious conversion.

A bench comprising Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud and Justice J B Pardiwala and Justice Manoj Misra issued notice to the Uttar Pradesh government on his plea challenging the Allahabad High Court. The apex court noted that the Allahabad High Court is not hearing the bail plea lodged by Rajendra Bihari Lal who has been in custody since December 31 last year.

Considering the submissions, the bench directed to issue notice, adding that by way of ad interim order, the court grants interim bail to the petitioner. The bench further stated that the quantum of bail bond shall not exceed Rs 25,000.

Appearing for Rajendra Bihari Lal, Senior advocate Siddharth Dave contended that the petitioner was arrested despite the apex court’s order. Earlier, the Uttar Pradesh police had told the Supreme Court that Rajendra Bihari Lal and other accused are the main perpetrators of a mass religious conversion programme which involves foreign funds from over 20 countries.

The police had asserted that Vinod Bihari Lal, among the other accused in the case, was actually a notorious criminal involved in 38 cases of various nature, including cheating and murder, across the state in the last two decades. An FIR was also registered under provisions of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Act against Lal and others.

Reportedly, it was alleged in the police complaint that about 90 Hindus congregated at the Evangelical Church of India in Hariharganj, Fatehpur, for the purpose of their conversion to Christianity and were put under undue influence, coercion, and lured through fraud and the promise of easy money.

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