Forced Religious Conversions : Supreme Court Asks Centre To Collect Information On Steps Taken By States

Update: 2022-11-28 12:51 GMT

Reiterating that the issue of forceful religious conversion is an 'important issue', the Supreme Court on Monday directed the Union Government to get information from all the States regarding the steps taken by them in this regard.

A bench comprising Justices MR Shah and CT Ravikumar was hearing a PIL filed by BJP leader Ashwini Upadhyay seeking steps  on curbing forceful religious conversion by intimidation, threats or allurement through gifts and monetary benefits.

Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehta informed the bench the Centre had filed an affidavit on November 27 stating that it is "cognizant of the gravity and the seriousness" of the issue of forced religious conversions.

"It's a menace", the SG stated, when the matter was taken up for hearing today. 

Senior Advocate Sanjay Hegde appeared for a party who was seeking an impleadment in the petition to oppose it. "This petition is not maintainable because the same petition was withdrawn before a three-judge bench", Hegde submitted.

"How does it matter whether it's heard by this court or any other court?", the Bench asked. Justice Shah asked Hegde if he was supporting forced conversions.

"The petition was first withdrawn before the Delhi High Court and Supreme Court. The purity of PIL has to be maintained. He has a political face, I will not say about it now….', Hedge said about the petitioner.  The senior counsel added that the concept of res-judicata is applicable to PILs as well.

"We are also for the purity of the PIL", the Bench said.

Advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, the petitioner appearing as party-in-person, submitted that the impleadment is sought by a converted Christian. "There will be a flood of IAs. I am opposing this", Upadhyay said while adding that the applicant was a "foreign-funded person".

While adjourning the matter to December 5, the Bench also asked the Centre to find out information on what other states have done in the matter. The bench said that instead of issuing notice to each State, it is asking Centre to collate the information. "Otherwise, there will be always one state which will ask for time", Justice Shah said.

Solicitor General concurred that the Court seeking each state to file its response would be a "recipe for delayed hearing".  SG Mehta apprised the Bench that the Centre's affidavit already contained details of 9 states who had already enacted legislations curbing forced religious conversations.

Hegde requested the bench to consider the issue of maintainability first. The bench said that it has only asked the Centre to file its counter-affidavit in the matter. Solicitor General suggested that the bench can take up the PIL and Hegde's application together.

"Mr SG, please allow other solicitors also to argue", Hegde said, during the hearing.

"I rarely get his humour, I laugh out of respect", the SG was quick to retort.

Case Title: Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay vs Union of India - W. P. (C) 63/2022

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