By LE Desk

Ahmedabad, April 12: A Parsi man in Vadodara who was booked in an FIR by a Hindu man over the former “hiding his religion” and “misusing his name” to sell his property under the Disturbed Areas Act, was granted anticipatory bail by the Gujarat High Court on April 6. 

The court of Justice Umesh Trivedi also held that prima facie, “no law obliges to state his religion in the affidavit filed in support of (an) application seeking previous sanction to transfer immovable property…”, The Indian Express reported.

An FIR was filed in August last year against Parsi Vadodara resident Feroz Contractor, following the sale of a plot of land in the Samarpan Housing Service Co-operative Society in the Tandalja area of Vadodara to one Muslim man, Firoz Patel. The sale was done under appropriate provisions of the Gujarat Prohibition of Transfer of Immovable Property and Provision for Protection of Tenants from Eviction from Premises in Disturbed Areas Act, 1991 or what is popularly known as the Disturbed Areas (DA) Act. The FIR filed by the purported chairperson of the housing society, Manish Puranchandra Malhotra, at JP Road police station, booked Contractor under the provisions of the Disturbed Areas Act and IPC sections pertaining to providing false information, breach of trust and forgery. The FIR had stated that Contractor “despite being a Parsi, did not disclose his religion…” in the documents submitted before the government authorities (district collector’s office) pertaining to the transfer of plot to a Muslim. The FIR also alleges that Contractor “took advantage of his Muslim-sounding first name… to get permission (for transfer of property) under the Disturbed Areas Act”.

Contractor had submitted before the court that “unless any provision of law obliges a person to mention religion even in any affidavit, non-mentioning the same would not attract any offence under any law.” It was also submitted that the specific section under the Disturbed Areas Act (section 6D) under which he was booked, only came into force in October 2020 and whereas, the complainant Malhotra alleges the commission of offence in May 2020, while the FIR was registered in August 2020, thus making the section apply retrospectively, which is not permissible in the said case. It was also pointed out that the police had registered the offence “without application of mind”.

The court of Justice Umesh Trivedi held, “…prima facie, it appears that no law obliges to state his (Contractor’s) religion in the affidavit filed in support of application seeking previous sanction to transfer immovable property, more particularly, (as was submitted by the counsel for Contractor),…that a person is not supposed to mention his religion in an affidavit that might be filed by him.”

The court added that in spite of the order granting Contractor anticipatory bail, “it would be open for the Investigating Agency to apply to the competent Magistrate, for police remand of the applicant,” and Contractor shall have to remain present before the Magistrate on the first date of hearing of such an application and on all subsequent occasions, as may be directed. “This would be sufficient to treat the accused in the judicial custody for the purpose of entertaining application of the prosecution for police remand…”

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