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Religious Conversion Not Prohibited Unless Forced, Every Person Has Right To Choose Religion: Delhi High Court

3 Jun 2022 9:30 AM GMT
Religious Conversion Not Prohibited Unless Forced, Every Person Has Right To Choose Religion: Delhi High Court

The Delhi High Court on Friday made significant remarks with respect to people's right under Article 25 of the Constitution to choose and profess a religion of their choice and the right to freely convert their religion.

"(Religious) conversion is not prohibited in law. Every person has a right to choose and profess any religion of his/her choice. It is a Constitutional right. If someone is forced to convert, then it's different issue but to convert is a person's prerogative," Justice Sanjeev Sachdeva observed.

The remarks were made while the Bench, also comprising Justice Tushar Rao Gedela, was hearing a PIL filed by Advocate Ashwini Upadhyay, seeking directions on Centre and Delhi government to frame laws prohibiting forced religious conversions.

Upadhyay sought prohibition on religious conversion by intimidation, threat and luring through gifts, by using "black magic" and "superstition".

At the outset, the Bench pointed out that the petition does not mention any instance of forced religious conversion. "What is the basis for this prayer? There is no material basis on record. No document, no instance. You have given three Supreme Court judgments and rest is your averment," Justice Sachdeva told Upadhyay.

As per the plea, the source of averments made is personal knowledge, Judgment of Supreme Court and High Court, Constitution Assembly Debates and the information collected from government websites.

It states that there is not even one district which is free of black magic, superstition and religious conversion by "the carrot and the stick" and "by hook and crook". Incidents of massive religious conversion are being reported every day as religious conversion is continue by intimidating, threatening, deceivingly luring through gifts and monetary benefits and by using the black magic, superstition, miracles.

The plea goes on to say that the situation Is alarming as many individuals and organizations are carrying mass conversions in rural areas. The mass conversion of socially economically under privileged people, particularly belonging to SC-ST is on steep rise. The foreign funded organizations operate very smoothly targeting the socially-economically underprivileged sections particularly belonging to the SC-ST community.

It relies on Supreme Court's judgment in Rev. Stanislaus v. State of Maharashtra, whereby the Anti-Conversion Laws of Maharashtra and Orissa were upheld.

"You have said mass conversion. Where are statistics? Has any aggrieved come forward?" the Bench asked Upadhyay.

"We are not for a moment questioning your bona fide. But we are looking at your petition. Every petition may have defects and it is for the Court to be satisfied," it added.

Upadhyay then sought to draw the Court's attention towards data collated from social media platforms. However, rejecting the same, Justice Sachdeva remarked, "Social media is not data. It can be morphed. Things done 20 yrs ago are shown as done yesterday."

The matter has now been posted for July 25 for a detailed examination of the issue. However, formal notice is yet to be issued. Meanwhile, the Court said that Centre may take appropriate action in the matter.

ASG Chetan Sharma, appearing for the Centre, submitted that the petition raises an important issue.

"You have brought the issue to notice of Centre. It is for them to take action. So far as this Court is concerned, firstly we have to be satisfied that it warrants notice," Bench said.

Case Title: Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay v. Union of India & Ors.

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