1 May 2023 5:38 AM GMT
Responding to a PIL filed to direct the Law Commission of India to prepare a draft on anti-conversion law, the Tamil Nadu Government has submitted before the Apex Court that Anti-conversion laws are prone to misuse against minorities. The PIL filed by BJP leader Ashwini Upadhyay has also sought for a direction to the government to take steps to control forceful or fraudulent...
Responding to a PIL filed to direct the Law Commission of India to prepare a draft on anti-conversion law, the Tamil Nadu Government has submitted before the Apex Court that Anti-conversion laws are prone to misuse against minorities. The PIL filed by BJP leader Ashwini Upadhyay has also sought for a direction to the government to take steps to control forceful or fraudulent religious conversions, with specific allegations against Missionaries spreading Christianity in the State.
In the affidavit filed before the Supreme Court, the TN government has stated that people have the right to propagate and preach their religious belief to other persons and people also have the choice to change their beliefs, as long as it is without intimidation or deception.
The TN government calls the PIL ‘politically motivated’, pointing out that it has been filed Advocate Ashwini Upadhyay, who belongs to the ruling party. The petitioner has served as the BJP spokesperson and as a leader of its Delhi unit, the affidavit states. The litigation has been initiated with the intention of furthering the party’s political agenda of fuelling religious intolerance against a particular faith.
“the prayers sought by the Petitioner in the present Writ Petition do not only attack a specific community with intentions to divide the society through hate, fuelling religious intolerance in the country, bringing disharmony in the society. The Writ Petition has been drafted with the sole intention to defame a particular faith by making shocking allegations without providing any supporting data or document”, the affidavit states.
The State Government has submitted before the Supreme Court that there have been no incidents of forceful religious conversion in the past few years and that the allegations made against the Christian community are without any basis. Criticising the “Religiously Motivated Litigation” filed by the petitioner, the affidavit states:
“Article 25 of the Constitution of India guarantees every citizen the right to propagate his religion. Therefore, the acts of missionaries spreading Christianity by itself cannot be seen as something against law. But if their act of spreading their religion is against public order, morality and health and to the other provisions of Part III of the Constitution it has to be viewed seriously. As far as Tamil Nadu is concerned, there has been no incidents of forceful conversion reported in the past many years”
The PIL has also sought for a CBI investigation into the death of 17-year old girl who died by suicide in Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu, calling it a case of forced conversion by the Christian institution where she was studying. However, the TN government has stated that the matter is already under investigation by the CBI and that there is no proof that the suicide of the minor girl was triggered by forced conversion to Christianity. Calling the PIL an attempt to unnecessarily drag a political fight into court, the affidavit states:
“petitioner has made sweeping allegations against the Tamil Nadu Government saying that the Government was determined to remove the conversion angle from the case of Lavanya's suspicious death. The petitioner who belongs to the Bharathiya Janata Party, has attempted to convert the court proceeding into a Political fight by bringing in ideological politics into the matter. All the allegations made against the Government of Tamil Nadu are politically motivated. There are no instances of forceful conversion of religion reported in Tamil Nadu and the State has not done anything in Lavanya's case as alleged by the petitioner.”
The TN Government has also argued that it is the prerogative of the State Legislative Assembly or Parliament to legislate a law on a particular subject and the Constitution does not empower Courts to direct the framing of a law.
The State government has also pointed out that as per the Constitution, all persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right to freely profess, practice and propagate the religion of their choice, subject to public order, morality, health.
“One of the rights guaranteed by the Indian Constitution is the right to Freedom of Religion. As a secular nation, every citizen of India has the right to freedom of religion i.e. right to follow any religion. As one can find so many religions being practiced in India, the constitution guarantees to every citizen the liberty to follow the religion of their choice”, the affidavit states.
Previously, a bench led by Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud had taken exception to certain statements made in the PIL petition against minorities and had asked the petitioner to remove them. The CJI's bench had also pulled up the petitioner for repeatedly filing petitions on the same cause and withdrawing them. The previous bench which heard the PIL had also directed the petitioner to remove "scurrilous statements" made against other religions.
Case Title: Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay V Union Of India