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regular-article-logo Saturday, 22 June 2024

Supreme Court stays trial court proceedings in Uttar Pradesh religious conversion cases

There should not be further proceedings in connection with the FIRs in the trial court in the case, a bench comprising Justices JB Pardiwala and Manoj Misra said in its order

PTI New Delhi Published 16.05.24, 07:19 PM
Supreme Court of India.

Supreme Court of India. File picture.

The Supreme Court on Thursday stayed criminal proceedings before a trial court in Uttar Pradesh over five FIRs lodged against the vice-chancellor of the Sam Higginbottom University of Agriculture, Technology and Sciences (SHUATS) and others for alleged illegal conversion of Hindus to Christianity.

The top court, which has been granting protection from arrest and bail to the accused, did not allow the prayer of the Uttar Pradesh government for the trial court proceedings to continue.

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“There should not be further proceedings in connection with the FIRs in the trial court in the case,” a bench comprising Justices JB Pardiwala and Manoj Misra said in its order.

The bench took note of the submission of a battery of lawyers including senior advocate Siddharth Dave, appearing for SHUATS VC Rajendra Bihari Lal, that the proceedings in the trial court be stayed as all the accused will have to appear following summons that will be issued to them in pursuance of fresh charge sheets filed by the state police in these cases.

Senior lawyer Mukta Gupta, appearing for one of the accused, said testimony of none of the alleged victims, who were claimed to have been lured into Christianity, was recorded by the state police.

The bench heard the arguments and will resume the hearing on August 2.

Earlier, the bench had fixed for final hearing the nine petitions seeking the quashing or clubbing of five FIRs lodged against the SHUATS VC and others pertaining to alleged illegal religious conversions.

The cases against Lal concern offences under sections 307 (attempt to murder), 504 (intentional insult with an aim to provoke breach of peace) and 386 (extortion) of the Indian Penal Code. He has also been booked under certain provisions of the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Act, 2021.

The top court has been passing orders from time to time protecting the accused from arrest in connection with the FIRs lodged in Fatehpur.

The Uttar Pradesh Police had earlier told the court that Lal and the other accused are the "main perpetrators" of a mass religious conversion programme that involved funds from about 20 countries.

Police have alleged that Lal, among the other accused, is actually a "notorious criminal" involved in 38 cases of various nature, including cheating and murder, registered across Uttar Pradesh over the last two decades.

Police have also alleged that about 90 Hindus congregated at the Evangelical Church of India in Hariharganj, Fatehpur for converting to Christianity and were put under "undue influence, coercion, and lured through fraud and the promise of easy money".

Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by The Telegraph Online staff and has been published from a syndicated feed.

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