Booked under anti-conversion law: Gujarat HC grants bail to all accused after plea to quash FIR

The Gujarat High Court on Wednesday granted bail to all the accused arrested in a case under the Gujarat Freedom of Religion (Amendment) Act, 2021, as an interim relief, after the complainant and an accused moved a petition jointly for the consensual quashing of the first FIR lodged.

The complainant–a 25-year old woman married to a 21-year-old Muslim man — already submitted in her petition that the FIR registered is an “incorrect, untrue and exaggerated version of the information” given by her that “arose out of a petty and trivial domestic matrimonial dispute”. The man and his family members had been named as accused in the FIR. However, the couple, in their plea to quash the FIR, stated that the issue has since been resolved and they wish to continue with their marital relations. Three of the accused in the case were granted bail earlier while four were in judicial custody.

The court on October 12 had stated it first wants to clarify if the interfaith couple “wants to stay together or not,” and to that extent had proposed that an interim relief by the way of a granting regular bail to the accused husband and others, after which the couple may stay together for 15 days, following which the court would take a decision on whether to quash the FIR.

The FIR was lodged at Gotri police station in Vadodara two days after an amendment to the Gujarat Freedom of Religion Act of 2003 came into force on June 15. The accused were booked under the provisions of the Indian Penal Code, the amended Gujarat Freedom of Religion Act and Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.

The accused included the woman’s husband, parents-in-law, sister-in-law, husband’s uncle, a cousin and a maulvi who solemnised the couple’s nikah. While the parents-in-law and sister-in-law were granted bail earlier, the husband, his uncle and cousin and the maulvi continued to be in judicial custody, nearly four months after their arrest.

A petition for quashing of the FIR was also moved by one 28-year old woman, also named as an accused in the case with her role attributed to conspiracy for providing a flat to the accused husband for commission of alleged rape of the complainant. The court of Justice Ilesh Vorao on Wednesday granted her protection from arrest and further directed the prosecution to not file a chargesheet against her without the court’s permission.

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