The Gujarat High Court on Tuesday admitted an appeal against a Bharuch court order rejecting anticipatory bail to a maulvi accused for alleged forced religious conversion.
The maulvi, Varvaya Abdul Vahab Mahmood, was arraigned as an accused in December 2021 on addition of new charges in an existing FIR of November 2021 at Amod police station in Bharuch.
The original FIR of November 15, 2021, was filed by Praveen Vasava, alleging that he was converted into Islam by several accused in 2018 and was rechristened as Salman Vasant Patel.
As per the FIR, offences were registered under section 4 of the Gujarat Freedom of Religion Act, and provisions of the Indian Penal Code pertaining to charges of criminal conspiracy (120 B), causing disharmony (153 (B) (1) (c)) and criminal intimidation (506 (2)).
Nine persons were named in the FIR, alleging that the accused, on receiving financial aid from the other accused, converted members of around 37 Hindu families.
In his complaint, Vasava stated that the accused people “lured innocent Hindu tribals of the village with money and in some cases built houses for them and converted them into Islam”.
The investigating officer in the case filed a report seeking addition of sections pertaining to forgery of documents (466, 467, 468, 471 of IPC) and also offences under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. These were added to the FIR on November 30, 2021, and on December 16, offences under Section 4A of the Gujarat Freedom of Religion Act as well as section 84 C (punishment for abetment of offences) of Information Technology Act were added to the FIR.
As stated in Mahmood’s appeal, during the course of the investigation “insinuations” were made against him and “several other Muslim religious leaders/ scholars, clerics, etc.”, and while no specific allegation has been made against Mahmood, he has corresponded with the investigating officer and has extended “full cooperation to the investigation”.
Fearing arrest, Mahmood moved before a Bharuch court seeking anticipatory bail, which was rejected on December 28, by the lower court. Appealing against the lower court’s order before HC, the court of Justice BN Karia on Tuesday admitted the appeal and issued notice to the respondent state and the complainant, returnable for February 15.