SC seeks Centre’s affidavit on plea to check ‘forced religious conversion’

14 November, 2022 | Vaishali Sharma

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The Supreme Court stated on Monday that forced religious conversion is a "very serious issue" that may jeopardise the "security of the country" as well as people' religious freedom of conscience.

The Supreme Court stated on Monday that forced religious conversion is a “very serious issue” that may jeopardise the “security of the country” as well as people’ religious freedom of conscience.

A bench of Justices MR Shah and Hima Kohli directed the Centre to file an affidavit on a plea seeking stringent steps to control ‘fraudulent and deceitful religious conversion’. “It is a very serious issue which will affect the security of the nation and freedom of religion and conscience,” said the bench as it posted the next hearing on November 28.

During Monday’s hearing, the bench observed, “It is a very dangerous thing. Everyone has the freedom of religion. What is this forceful conversion?”

“There may be a freedom of religion, but no freedom of forced conversion. What steps has the government taken in ths regard? The government should make its stand clear on what action it proposes to take. Conversion is allowed under the Constitution, but not forcible conversion,” Justice Shah said.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, told the bench that conversions are rampant in tribal areas.

“Giving rice, wheat or other things to the poor for conversion… In tribal areas, this is rampant,” Mehta said.

To this, Justice Shah asked Mehta, “Then what is the government doing?”

It then directed the Centre to file an affidavit by November 22 on the plea.

Dictating the order, the bench said, “It is better that Union of India may make their stand clear and file counter on what further steps can be taken or others to curb such conversation by force, allurement or fraudulent means. At the request of SG, (the next date of hearing on the plea) is posted on November 28. Counter affidavit to be filed by November 22.”

The comment was made in response to a petition submitted by counsel Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, who claimed that false and deceptive religious conversion is widespread throughout the country and that the federal government has failed to curb the practise.

The petition requested that the Law Commission of India draught a report and a Bill to combat “deceitful religious conversion.”

It also asked the Supreme Court to rule that false religious conversion and conversion via coercion, threats, or gifts and monetary rewards are in violation of Articles 14, 21, and 25 of the Constitution.

The PIL said, “There is not even one district which is free of religious conversion by hook and cook and the carrot and the stick. The Centre is obligated to enact a countrywide law for the same.”