At the outset, it must be mentioned that the Allahabad High Court has in a learned, laudable, landmark and latest judgment titled Irfan Shaikh @ Irfan Khan vs State of UP Through ATS in Criminal Appeal No. 38 of 2022 cited in 2022 LiveLaw (All) 160 that was delivered just recently on March 25, 2022 upheld the order of denial of bail to a Central Government servant, Irfan Shaikh accused of waging war against India by converting people to Islam by misusing his official position. It merits no reiteration that there can be no justification for conversion and I can still recall that my best friend Sageer Khan was very firm in holding way back in 1994 while I was doing BSc from Sagar University in Madhya Pradesh that, “Religion, nation and parents can never be changed under any circumstances. It is better to die than to change religion, nation and parents. Always worship Lord Shiva, whom you worship till now till you die just like I will always worship Allah till I die. Never even dream of shunning your God whom you worship or your religion or nation, as it can never be justified under any circumstances. Moreover, all religion are different path to reach the same destination and so we should always follow the path in which we took birth and choose no other path for ourselves.” It must be mentioned that the Bench of Justice Ramesh Sinha and Justice Brij Raj Singh affirmed the October 2021 order of the Special Judge, NIA/ATS/Additional District & Sessions Judge, Lucknow denying bail to Irfan Shaikh as he was found to be involved in anti-national activities of conversion by misusing his official position.
To start with, this brief, brilliant, bold and balanced judgment authored by Justice Ramesh Sinha and Justice Brij Raj Singh of the Allahabad High Court sets the ball rolling by first and foremost putting forth in para 1 that, “The instant criminal appeal has been filed by the appellant, Irfan Shaikh alias Irfan Khan, under Section 21 (4) of the National Investigation Agency Act, 2008 (hereinafter referred to as “Act, 2008”), challenging the order dated 21.10.2021 of refusal of bail to the appellant by the learned Special Judge, N.I.A./A.T.S./Additional District & Sessions Judge, Court No.3, Lucknow in Bail Application No. 6152 of 2021: Irfan Khan alias Irfan Shaikh Vs. The state of U.P.”
To put things in perspective, the Bench then envisages in para 2 that, “It transpires that S.I. Vinod Kumar had furnished information to A.T.S. that some anti-national/anti-social elements and religious organizations, on the dictate of ISI and foreign organizations, have indulged in getting the people converted to Islam by getting funds from foreign countries for this purpose. Such anti-national/anti-social elements have targeted the people by creating and promoting rumours about other religions by giving hatred speeches, by insulting the religion and religious feelings of a class of citizens with deliberate and malicious intention. It also alleged that such anti-social and anti national have targeted the people of weaker sections of the society, children, women and people belonging to Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes etc. Their object and goal is to change the demography of country by converting the citizen from one religion to another religion and disturbing the peace and tranquillity of society and disturbing the public order.
On the aforesaid information and during interrogation in Case Crime No. 473 of 2001, registered under Sections 419, 420, 295A, 505, 506 I.P.C., Police Station Masoori, Ghaziabad, it came out that accused Umar Gautam, who is a converted Muslim, is involved in getting the citizen of another religion converted to Muslim religion on large scale and about 1000 non-muslims have been converted and married with Muslims, it also came out that accused Umar Gautam and his associates are running an organization, namely, Islamic Dawa Centre for the said purpose of conversion and the huge fund is being provided to Islamic Dawa Centre from different sources including foreign countries. It also came out that students of the deaf and dumb schools, namely, NOIDA Deaf Society, have been converted in an illegal manner by practising misrepresentation, allurement and fraudulent means. On enquiry, it was found that Case Crime No. 247 of 2021 was registered under Section 364 I.P.C. for the kidnapping of one Aditya Gupta and his parents stated that his son was forcibly converted and was taken to somewhere in the southern part of India.
On the aforesaid information, First Information Report i.e. Crime No. 09 of 2021, under Sections 420, 120-B, 153A, 153B, 295A, 511 I.P.C. and Section 3/5 of the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Act, 2021 has been registered on 20th June, 2021 at Police Station ATS, Gomti Nagar, Lucknow against accused Umar Gautam, Mufti Qazi Jahangir Qasmi, Chairman Islamic Dawa Centre and unknown persons.
During the investigation of the aforesaid case crime No. 9 of 2021, it was found by the Investigating Officer that accused Umar Gautam had created a gang for the aforesaid aim and object and Irfan Khan (appellant), who was working as an Interpreter in Sign Language Training and Research Centre, New Delhi, was a vital link of this syndicate. The name of the appellant Irfan Khan came in light of the statements of co-accused Jahangir and Rahul Bhola. After that, the Investigating Officer, on collecting material and clinching evidence against the accused persons including the appellant, filed charge sheets (Annexure Nos. CA-36 to 40 to the counter affidavit).
The appellant had filed an application for bail, bearing No. 6152 of 2021, before learning Special Judge, N.I.A./ A.T.S./Additional District & Sessions Judge, Court No.3, Lucknow, which was rejected vide order dated 21.10.2021. Hence the instant criminal appeal under Section 21 (4) of the National Investigation Agency Act, 2008 has been filed before this Court, challenging the aforesaid order dated 21.10.2021.”
Needless to say, the Bench then observes in para 9, “We have examined the submissions advanced by the learned Counsel for the parties, perused the impugned order and the material brought on record.”
Most significantly, the Bench then pulls back no punches to hold in a simple, straight and strict language in para 10 that, “It transpires from the record that though the appellant was not named in the First Information Report but during the investigation, his involvement in the instant crime surfaced from the statements of co-accused Jahangir and Rahul Bhola recorded under Section 161 Cr.P.C. as is evident from Annexure CA-3 and CA-4 to the counter affidavit. It also transpires that during investigation, the Investigating Agency found that appellant Irfan Khan had played an indispensable role in the conversion of deaf and dumb persons by misrepresentation etc. and has played a special role in persuading the deaf and dumb students in sign language. Furthermore, in the statement recorded under Sections 161 and 164 Cr.P.C., witness Firoz, who is the Notary Advocate, has stated that the Notary form was brought by the appellant for illegal conversation and it was disclosed by the appellant that being employee of Central Government, he is authorized by the Central Government for this work. During investigation, the Investigating Officer had also found that many students studying in Noida Deaf Society have been converted to Muslim religion and the appellant was also involved in the crime in question in view of the statements of witnesses Laxmi Gupta, Aditya Gupta, Firoz Ahmad, Mohd. Sabba.”
It is worth noting that the Bench then points out in para 11 that, “A perusal of Annexure CA-17, CA-18, CA-20 and CA-21 of the counter affidavit shows that the Islamic Dava Centre is being run by Fatima Charity Foundation of accused Umar Gautam having an account in the name of Fatima Charitable Foundation in Kotak Mahindra Bank (Account No. 0711131345). There is no bank account in the name of Islamic Dava Centre. A huge amount has been received in the personal bank accounts of accused Umar Gautam and accused Abdullah Umar son of Umar Gautam for running the activities of Islamic Dava Centre. Furthermore, Annexure No.CA-22, which is a copy of the chat received from the extracted data of mobile phone of accused Umar Gautam from Forensic Science Laboratory, shows the chat between accused Umar Gautam and one person, namely, Irfan Atlantaa and also conversation about paying money to new Muslims in India in their bank accounts has been mentioned in the chat.”
Most remarkably, the Bench then while rejecting the bail of the appellant enunciates in para 12 that, “Considering the facts and circumstances of the case, particularly the fact that the Investigating Officer, after due investigation, has found cogent and clinching evidence against the appellant that with the connivance of co-accused Umar Gautam and others, appellant is involved in anti-national activities of conversation by misusing his official position while working in Sign Language Training and Research Centre, New Delhi as Interpreter, we do no find any good ground to grant bail to the appellant.”
Finally, the Bench then concludes by holding in para 13 that, “Accordingly, while affirming the impugned order dated 21.10.2021, the instant criminal appeal of the appellant-Irfan Shaikh @ Irfan Khan, involved in Case Crime No.9/2021, under Sections 120B, 121A, 123, 153A, 153B, 295A, 298, 417 I.P.C. and Section 3/5/8 U.P. Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, (Act), 2021, P.S. ATS U.P., District Lucknow, is dismissed.”
All told, the key essence of this extremely commendable, cogent, composed and creditworthy judgment by a Division Bench of Allahabad High Court comprising of Justice Ramesh Sinha and Justice Brij Raj Singh is that if an accused who is a government employee and who is accused of waging war against India by converting people to Islam by misusing his official position will have to face the music of law and would not be allowed to go scot free. This notable judgment must be taken most seriously and those government employee who are accustomed to indulge in conversion tactics of people must think now thousand times before they do so as they too can similarly now face the axe and land up senselessly in jail as conversion is banned also now in many states like that of UP! Now the choice is finally theirs as the ball is in their court!