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India

SC Seeks Centre’s Affidavit On Plea To Check ‘Forced Religious Conversion’

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.

Supreme Court
File Photo of The Supreme Court. (PTI Photo)

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday observed that forced religious conversion is a “very serious issue” and may affect the “security of the country” along with the freedom of conscience of citizens as far as religion is concerned. 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 apex court made the observation on a plea filed by advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay claiming that fraudulent and deceitful religious conversion is rampant across the country and that the central government has failed to contain the practice. The plea sought directions to the Law Commission of India to prepare a report and a Bill to control “deceitful religious conversion”.

It further sought a declaration from the SC that fraudulent religious conversion and conversion by intimidation, threats or through gifts and monetary benefits is in contravention of articles 14, 21 and 25 of the Constitution.

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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. “Earlier, the apex court had dismissed a similar petition filed by Upadhyay.