The nuns and Vadodara home of Missionaries of Charity face case of alleged forceful conversion
A local court in Vadodara adjourned the hearing on the anticipatory bail plea of two nuns of the Vadodara home of the Missionaries of Charity, affiliated with the organisation founded by Nobel laureate Mother Teresa, over the legal tenability of the Sections applied by the police in their FIR against the centre for alleged forceful conversion.
Moreover, a woman whose case the State authorities have cited as a “forceful conversion to Christianity” has categorically denied the charge in an affidavit filed in the court.
The centre and nuns have been booked by the local police under the Gujarat Freedom of Religion Act, 2003 for allegedly “hurting Hindu religious sentiments” and “luring towards Christianity young girls” in the shelter home run by the organisation.
On December 30, the local court adjourned the hearing after Vadodara district government pleader Anil Desai submitted that an intimation from the office of the Government Pleader of the Gujarat High Court was awaited over the use of Sections 3 and 4 of the Act in the police case.
The issue of legal tenability of Sections 3 and 4 arose as the same Sections have been stayed by the High Court in August 2021 while hearing two petitions challenging the inclusion of conversion in an interfaith marriage as being a “forceful conversion.”
During the bail hearing, Vadodara’s Additional Sessions Judge R.T. Panchal sought to know from Mr. Desai, appearing for the police, the legal question arising over the use of the two Sections of the Act to book the Missionaries of Charity.
Mr. Desai subsequently approached the Government Pleader in the High Court seeking clarity on the application of the two Sections stayed by the High Court.
The court has posted the matter for hearing on January 5 after the government lawyer sought adjournment.
As per the details, the Vadodara police had lodged the FIR on December 12 based on the complaint of District Social Defence Officer Mayank Trivedi, who had visited the Home for Girls run by the Missionaries of Charity in the Makarpura area of the city along with the Chairman of the Child Welfare Committee of the district on December 9.
In the FIR, it is stated that during his visit, Mr Trivedi found that the girls sheltered inside the Missionaries of Charity were being forced to read the Christian religious books and participate in prayers of Christian faith, with the intention to convert them into Christianity.
In its complaint after the visit, the Child Welfare Committee claimed that the organisation had forced a girl of Hindu origin to marry into a Christian family as per Christian traditions and rituals.
However, the woman has, in her affidavit before the court, denied the charge and said her interfaith marriage was with her “consent and free will” and she was “not forced to convert” as claimed by the government authorities.
The woman also disputed the police version that she used to live in the shelter, while claiming that she had joined the shelter home as a “volunteer.”
She has also charged the State authorities with damaging her “reputation and social life” by falsely citing her case as “forceful conversion.”
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