Supreme Court

SC Grants Interim Protection From Arrest To SHUATS’s VC

Supreme Court

The Supreme Court on Tuesday granted interim protection from arrest to the Vice-Chancellor and other higher officials of Sam Higginbottom University of Agriculture, Technology and Science (SHUATS), accused of persuading a woman to adopt Christianity by offering her job and other allurements.

A bench of Justice Aniruddha Bose and Justice KV Vishwanathan stayed the Allahabad High Court order, which had refused to stay the FIR registered against the VC and other senior officials.

The High Court, while declining to quash the FIR, had asked them to surrender before the competent court on and before December 20 and seek regular bail.

Challenging the High Court order, they approached the vacation bench of the apex court, seeking protection from arrest and stay on the High Court order.

The vacation bench of the top court, while hearing their plea, also issued notice to the Uttar Pradesh government and listed the case for hearing on reopening of the apex court

“Issue notice. There shall be an interim order protecting the petitioners from arrest in connection with FIR number 305/2023, the bench ordered while staying the High Court order till January 5.

During today’s hearing, senior advocate Siddhartha Dave, appearing for the petitioners, argued that there was grave urgency since it involved a violation of the right to anticipatory bail.

“The High Court says that since this is a heinous offence, the accused must surrender before the majesty of the court. My right of anticipatory bail is gone. It is a university established in 1910, and if you read the FIR, it is like some corruption scam,” Dave argued.

Senior advocate Siddhartha Dave appeared for the petitioners along with advocates Prastut Dalvi, Vidhi Thaker and Pallavi Sharma.

The FIR was registered at Bewar in Hamirpur district of Uttar Pradesh against Rajendra Bihari Lal, Vice-Chancellor of SHUATS, its Director Vinod Bihari Lal, and five other officials of the Christian minority institution in a case concerning an attempt to convert people to Christianity.

The appeal before the top court stated that the FIR contains” baseless and unsubstantiated allegations”.

“The present impugned FIR has been lodged with malafide intention just in order to falsely implicate, harass and malign the petitioners and the University,” it added.

The incident so mentioned in the impugned FIR dates back to 2005 and the present FIR was registered on November 4, 2023, of which there is no plausible justification coming forward to explain this inordinate delay, the petitioners contended.

The High Court on December 11, 2023, refused to quash the FIR and observed that no true religion would approve of malpractices of religious conversion by undue force by a priest or godmen.

The allegations are that they persuaded a woman to adopt Christianity by offering her a job and other allurements.

In an FIR registered on November 4, 2023, lodged under Section 376D (gang rape) and other IPC sections and relevant sections of the UP Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Act, 2021 and the Immoral Traffic Prevention Act, 1956, in Bewar, the woman alleged that she belonged to a lower middle-class family and was trapped by another woman who took her regularly to a church.

In the FIR, she also alleged that she was regularly subjected to sexual exploitation by the accused petitioners, and she was persuaded and pressurized to bring other women for conversion and other illegal work.

However, petitioners have submitted that the victim was offered a job at SHUATS and when she was sacked from her service in 2022, she tailored a story, as mentioned in the FIR, just to rope in all the higher officials of SHUATS, including the Vice-Chancellor. (ANI)

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