The Uttar Pradesh government on Thursday told the Allahabad High Court that there was no evidence against a Muslim man who was among the first in the state to be charged under the new law against forced conversions, reported NDTV.
“The Investigating officer has found that it is not a case of UP Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance 2020 and the Act UP Ordinance No. 21 of 2020,” said the affidavit filed by the UP government on Wednesday. “There is no evidence found that the accused Nadeem is having an illicit relation with Parul, nor has any evidence come forward that he tried to change the religion of Parul.”
The court also extended the protection from arrest to Nadeem and listed the matter for a fresh hearing on January 15. The High Court had, in its last hearing granted the accused protection, which was to expire on Thursday. Nadeem had moved the High Court, seeking to scrap the first information report filed against him.
“As far as the challenge to the Act goes, the main ground is that Article 25 guarantees that any person is free to choose his or her religion and the challenge is that the government is interfering in our private affairs,” Nadeem’s lawyer, Syed Farman Ahmad Naqvi said.
Nadeem, 32, and his brother Salman, were named in a complaint filed in the matter by Akshay Kumar Tyagi, the woman’s husband. Tyagi had accused Nadeem of wanting to marry his wife and coercing her to convert her religion. He alleged that Nadeem used to frequent his house and had gifted his wife a smartphone.
The state government’s affidavit filed on Wednesday, however, added that the investigating officer found evidence that Nadeem had threatened Akshay, and so a chargesheet for “criminal intimidation and provocation causing [a] breach of public peace” had been submitted in the court on December 31.
This came after the High Court had in its last hearing on December 19 pointed out that there was no evidence that any force or coercive means was used by Nadeem.
Uttar Pradesh had passed the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2020, in November. Since then, the police have arrested several Muslim men under the law. On Wednesday, the Supreme Court agreed to examine the constitutional validity of anti-conversion laws, but refused to stay the controversial legislations.
The anti-conversion laws seek to penalise “love jihad” – a pejorative term coined by right-wing groups to push the conspiracy theory that Muslim men coerce Hindu women into marrying them with the sole purpose of converting their brides to Islam.
Apart from Uttar Pradesh, four other BJP-ruled states – Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Haryana and Assam – have also decided to introduce laws aimed at preventing inter-faith marriage.
The Centre had told the Lok Sabha last February that no “case of “love jihad” had been reported by any of the central agencies”. Investigations by the National Investigation Agency and the Karnataka Criminal Investigation Department have turned up no evidence for this alleged conspiracy either. The National Commission for Women maintains no data about “love jihad” too.