AHMEDABAD: The Gujarat High Court on Wednesday granted bail as an interim relief to all four persons currently in jail in the first case filed in the state under an amended Act that penalises forcible or fraudulent religious conversion through marriage.
The case involving an inter-faith couple was filed in Vadodara under the amended Gujarat Religious Freedom Act and the interim relief granted by the court to the four, including the main accused, will be pending the disposal of a petition filed by them seeking quashing of the FIR against them.
While hearing the plea seeking quashing of the FIR, filed jointly by the accused persons and the complainant – the wife of the main accused – Justice Ilesh J Vora ordered enlargement on bail as an interim measure to all the four accused who are currently in jail.
The petitioners have argued there was no communal angle to the entire episode and they have settled the dispute that had led to the filing of the complaint.
The HC also granted protection from arrest to one more accused and said while the police may continue their investigation in the case, they cannot file a charge-sheet against the accused (a woman), without first informing the court, said her lawyer Hitesh Gupta.
The accused granted protection from arrest has been charged with being part of a conspiracy to help the couple get married and advising them for abortion of their child.
“For the accused persons who are still in jail, the court ordered them to be released on bail as an interim measure until the final adjudication of their quashing petition,” Gupta said.
Three other accused, out of the total eight named in the FIR, were granted bail by a lower court last month.
In her plea, the wife of main accused Samir Qureshi had told the court that her complaint before the Gotri police in Vadodara was on “petty and trivial domestic matrimonial issue,” which has been amicably resolved.
Qureshi’s parents, sisters, uncle, cousin and a priest who solemnised the marriage at the centre of the entire episode were among the eight accused named in the FIR lodged in Vadodara under the Act, which came into force on June 15.
The complainant woman had told the court that the angle of “love jihad” was added to the FIR by “certain religio-political groups” looking to “communalise” the issue.
She had dubbed the police action as “communally biased,” and said that if her plea (to quash FIR) was not accepted, it would result in derailment of her matrimonial relationship with her husband.
Her lawyer had told the HC the parties concerned had amicably resolved the dispute and prayed for quashing of the FIR.
While granting interim relief to the petitioners on Wednesday, the HC said it will decide on their plea to quash the FIR only after ascertaining that their settlement was genuine and after the married couple have stayed together for a certain period of time.
All the eight persons, including the complainant, had approached the HC for quashing of the first FIR lodged in Vadodara under the Act, two days after it was notified.
Apart from various sections of the Act, the accused were also booked under sections of the IPC pertaining to domestic violence — including causing miscarriage to the child — as well as provisions of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities Act) – (the main complainant is a Dalit).
The government had opposed the petition, saying the petitioner (the complainant woman) was contradicting her own statement.
The petitioner and her husband came to know each other in 2019 and developed an intimate relationship after which they got married under the Special Marriage Act, 1954, and their families knew each other, their religion identity, social status and other details, the couple stated in the plea before the court.
They then got married as per Muslim rituals on February 16, 2021, and executed a joint affidavit declaring the facts, and got their marriage registered under the provisions of the Special Marriage Act, according to the plea.