They have been in jail since December 20. They would move High Court for bail, says activist

A South Korean woman and three Uttar Pradesh residents accused under the new ordinance of allegedly trying to entice two Hindu women to convert to Christianity were denied bail by a local court in Gautam Buddha Nagar.

The four accused, which includes three women, have been in jail since December 20.

South Korean national Minkaygali alias Anmol and Seema, Sandhya and Umesh Kumar of Prayagraj were booked on charges of using enticement to convert people to Christianity.

The FIR lodged at the Surajpur police station in Gautam Buddha Nagar on December 19 under the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Religious Conversion Ordinance, 2020 also evoked Section 295a of the Indian Penal Code (deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings).

The complainant Anita Sharma, who worked as a security guard in a private firm but had to leave her job due to illness, claimed the accused persons had approached her during the lockdown and helped her with ration and ₹7,000. The accused then started inviting her to a temporary church in Malakpur every weekend, even sending a car to pick her up, and offered her more money to the tune of ₹10 lakh and ration if she removed the images of Hindu gods and goddesses from her house, Anita told The Hindu.

In their defence, the accused persons recently told the court of an additional sessions judge through their counsel that they were falsely implicated by the police in collusion with the complainant, whom they did not offer any ration or money. They claimed they had nothing to do with any conversion and that three of them belonged to the Hindu faith.

Anmol, a resident of Seoul, who came to India on a tourist visa, submitted tickets of the archaeological department and tourist places to the court.

The prosecution, however, told the court that the accused were no longer Hindus but had themselves already converted to another faith.

The government counsel further submitted that the four had violated the clause in the ordinance criminalising “mass conversion”.

As per Section 2 (f) of the ordinance, “mass conversion” means two or more persons were converted. Section 5 (1) of the ordinance provides a minimum punishment of three years and a maximum of 10 years for violating it.

In an order dated January 21, Pawan Pratap Singh, additional sessions judge (I), Gautam Buddha Nagar, denied bail to the four. “As per the facts and circumstances of the case, the crime is of a serious nature,” the judge said in the order.

Patsy David, a Christian activist from U.P. following the case, said the accused would now move the Allahabad High Court for bail.

The HC on February 2 is set to continue its hearing of the PILs filed before it challenging the ordinance after the Supreme Court recently rejected the U.P. government’s petition seeking to transfer the case to it.

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