The Supreme Court on Wednesday granted bail to a Muslim man accused of “waging a war on India” through illegal religious conversions.

A bench of Justices Aniruddha Bose and Sudhanshu Dhulia said that the man, Irfan Shaikh, has been in custody for over a year and noted that the trial in the case has not begun.

Shaikh, a Central government employee, was arrested by the Uttar Pradesh Anti-Terror Squad on June 28, 2021, Maktoob reported.

The Anti-Terror Squad claimed that it had received information about some “anti-national elements” and religious organisations who were converting people to Islam at the direction of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency and other religious organisations, reported Live Law.

Shaikh, who was among the eight persons arrested in the case, was charged under Section 120B (criminal conspiracy), 121A (waging war against the government of India), 123 (concealing with intent to facilitate design to wage war), 153A (promoting enmity between different groups), 153B (imputation, assertions prejudicial to national integration), 295A (intention to outrage religious feelings), 298 (uttering words to hurt religious feelings) and 417 (punishment for cheating) of the Indian Penal Code and several sections of the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Act.

The anti-conversion law is aimed at penalising “love jihad” – a debunked Hindutva conspiracy theory that Muslim men romantically lure Hindu women in order to convert them to Islam.

It also makes religious conversion punishable if it has been done by misrepresentation, force, undue influence, coercion or allurement.

Shaikh had approached the Supreme Court after his bail was rejected by the Allahabad High Court in April.

On Wednesday, the court said that certain conditions can be imposed on Shaikh’s bail by the trial court.

It suggested that the lower court may direct him to not enter Uttar Pradesh, besides on occasion when he has to appear for trial. The court also allowed him to produce sureties from people residing out of the state.

Advocate Furkan Pathan, who was part of the legal team representing Shaikh, told Scroll that the charges invoked against his client were unwarranted.

“The Supreme Court heard our argument and granted bail,” Pathan said. “We are sure that he will get acquitted and come out clean.”

At the last hearing in the case on February 15, Solicitor General KM Nataraj, appearing for Uttar Pradesh, had argued that Shaikh had misused his position as a government employee to convert gullible persons, reported Live Law.

He had submitted that this could have a serious impact on the secular fabric of the society.