On Friday, the Allahabad High Court granted bail to Faisal Khan, who was arrested for offering Namaz inside the premises of the Nand Baba temple to “show communal harmony” in Mathura, Uttar Pradesh.
The bench headed by Justice Siddharth heard the bail application of Faisal Khan who sought to be released on bail in the Case Crime No. 390 of 2020, under Sections 153 A, 295, 505, 419, 420, 467, 468, and 471 of the Indian Penal Code registered at Police Station Barsana, Mathura.
On 29th October, the applicant Faisal Khan was concluding his four-day bicycle rally ‘Brij 84 Kosi Parikrama’ aimed at spreading the message of inter-faith dialogue, love, empathy, and religious tolerance. Faisal is a member of Khudai Khidmatgar, a Delhi-based social organization that works towards communal harmony.
Reportedly, Faisal had visited Nandbaba Temple and engaged in interfaith dialogue with the priest of Nandbaba temple and other devotees inside the temple. A video recording of the said incident was recorded and uploaded on Facebook by one Goswami Shubham Kant Ji (associated with running the temple). He also offered Namaz in the backyard of Nand Baba Mandir as a gesture of communal harmony as he wanted to spread the message of peace.
UP Police arrested Faisal on November 2 after it came to light through a social media post that he along with three other members of the group Chand Mohammed, Alok Ratan, and Nilesh Gupta had allegedly offered Namaz inside Nand Mahal Temple complex and promoting enmity on the grounds of religion, defiling a place of worship and public mischief.
The Applicant, Faisal khan earlier moved Magistrate Court, Chhata Tehsil on 03rd November, however, his bail application was rejected. Thereafter, he approached ADJ-02, Mathura District Court. However, this application too was rejected by the Court vide its order dated 24th November.
In his application before the High Court, Faisal has averred that the head of the Temple requested the applicant to offer Namaz within the Temple as it was time to offer Namaz and the Masjid was at a distance.
On the other hand, as per the FIR, the allegation against him is that he, along with co-accused, Chand Mohammad performed Namaz inside the temple without the consent of the priest and its photographs were made viral. The news was also shown on television.
Thereafter, a first information report was lodged on the allegation that this act of the applicant and co-accused shows disrespect for the religious feeling of other community and there is a possibility of deterioration in the communal harmony. It has also been suspected that the applicants are receiving foreign funds.
Meanwhile, Faisal’s counsel Ali Qambar Zaidi told the court that Khan was “a renowned social activist who had revived Khudai Khidmatgar movement of India and has been working towards maintaining communal harmony for the last 25 years”. He further stated that as part of his effort towards communal harmony, Faisal had undertaken a yatra of temples. The counsel argued that only on the basis of photographs that went viral, the applicant cannot be said to have the intention to disturb the communal harmony of the society.
Further, he said that “Faisal did not enter into the sanctum sanctorum of the temple rather he performed Namaz outside of the temple with the permission of the priest of the temple as clear from the viral photographs. The allegation of receiving foreign funds is without basis.”
The Allahabad High Court bench headed by Justice Siddharth considered the material on record, the larger mandate of Article 21 of the Indian Constitution and the Apex Court ruling in the case of Dataram Singh vs. State of UP and another, reported in (2018) 3 SCC 22. The bench without expressing any opinion on the merits of the case directed “Let the applicant involved in the aforesaid crime be released on bail on his furnishing a personal bond and two sureties each in the like amount to the satisfaction of the court concerned.”
Further, while granting bail to Faisal, the High Court prohibited him from using social media till the conclusion of the trial. The bench has also inter-alia directed Faisal Khan not to tamper with the prosecution evidence by intimidating/ pressurizing witnesses, during the investigation or trial and cooperate in the trial sincerely without seeking any adjournment.
Faisal is facing charges under 153A (Promoting enmity between different groups on ground of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony), 295 (Injuring or defiling place of worship, with intent to insult the religion of any class), 505 (Statements conducing to public mischief), 419 (Punishment for cheating by personation), 420 (Cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property), 467 (Forgery of valuable security, will, etc), 468 (Forgery for purpose of cheating) and 471 (Using as genuine a forged document or electronic record) of the Indian Penal Code.