Will Take Serious Steps Against Forced Religious Conversions; No One Has Any Fundamental Right To Convert Others : Centre Tells Supreme Court
In an affidavit filed before the Supreme Court, the Union Government said that it is "cognizant of the gravity and the seriousness" of the issue of forced religious conversions.
Responding to a PIL filed by BJP leader Ashwini Upadhyay seeking measures to control forced conversions, the Union said that, "the relief sought in the present petition would be taken up in all seriousness by the Union of India and appropriate steps shall be taken as the Central Government is cognizant of the matter."
The petition sought for direction to the Union and State Governments to take stringent steps in order to curb forceful religious conversion by intimidation, threats and deceivingly luring through gifts and monetary benefits. Upadhyay also sought directions to the Law Commission of India to prepare a Report as well as a Bill to control religious conversions.
The Supreme Court on the previous hearing had termed the issue "very serious" and directed the Union to make its stand clear. In the affidavit filed in pursuance of the Court direction, the Ministry of Home Affairs stated "the right to freedom of religion does not include a fundamental right to convert other people to a particular religion. The said right certainly does not include the right to convert an individual through fraud, deception, coercion, allurement or such means"
Referring to the judgment of the top court in Rev. Stainislaus vs. State of Madhya Pradesh and Ors., the Union said, "The Hon'ble Court held that the word 'propagate' does not envisage the right to convert a person rather is in the nature of the positive right to spread one's religion by exposition of its tenets." The Supreme Court in the five-judge bench led by Chief Justice A. N. Ray had examined the scope of the words 'propagate' and 'public order'. The Union further submitted that the Supreme Court in the judgment had upheld the enactments which sought to control and curb the menace of organized, sophisticated large scale illegal conversions.
Union stressed upon the fact that such enactments are necessary for protecting the cherished rights of vulnerable sections of the society including women and economically and socially backward classes. Union also pointed out that the States of Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka and Haryana, have already made the legislations in this regard.
Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay vs Union of India - W. P. (C) 63/2022