A public interest litigation has been filed before the Supreme Court by BJP leader and Advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, seeking directions to the Central and the State Governments to take apposite steps for controlling black magic, superstition and forceful religious conversions.
The Petitioner has relied upon the Sarla Mudgal Case (1995) 3 SCC6 635, whereby directions were issued to the Centre to ascertain the feasibility of enacting an Anti-Conversion Law.
He has submitted that incidents of forceful religious conversion by "carrot and stick", use of black magic, etc., are reported every week throughout the country. In fact, the victims of such forceful conversions are often socially and economically under privileged people, particularly belonging to the SC-ST.
This not only offends Articles 14, 21, 25 of the Constitution, but is also against the principles of secularism, which is integral part of basic structure of Constitution.
However, the Government has failed to take any concrete action against these menaces of the society.
"It is necessary to state that Centre is empowered to make special provisions for the benefit of women and children under Article 15(3) and freedom of conscience, free profession, practice & propagation of religion under Article 25 is subject to public order, morality, health and other provisions of Part-III. Moreover, directive principles are affirmative instructions to the Centre to secure social, economic and political Justice; Liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship; Equality of status and opportunity and to promote among them fraternity, assuring the dignity of individual, unity, and integrity. But, Centre has not taken steps to secure high ideals outlined in Preamble and Part-III," the plea filed through Advocate Ashwani Dubey states.
It adds, "Centre-States are obligated under Article 46 to protect SC-ST community from social injustice and other forms of exploitation."
The plea further avers that Article 25 secures religious freedom that "all persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right to freely profess, practice, and propagate religion subject to public order, morality and health." Thus, it is crystal clear that religious conversion by using miracles, superstition, black magic and hypocrisy is not protected under Article 25.
Further the Petitioner has made reference to the provisions in International Law, to contend that State is duty bound to protect its citizens from coercion that affects their freedom of religion.
For instance, Article 18(2) of International Covenant on Civil-Political Rights states: "No one shall be subject to coercion which would impair his freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice."
Article 18(3) thereof states: "Freedom to manifest one's religion or beliefs may subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary to protect public safety, order, health, or morals or the fundamental rights and freedom of others."
Article 1(2) of the Declaration on Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and Discrimination based on Religion or Belief states: "No one shall be subject to coercion which would impair his freedom to have a religion or belief of his choice."
The Petitioner has thus urged the Top Court to direct the Centre and States to take appropriate steps to control black magic, superstition and religious conversion by intimidating, threatening, deceivingly luring through gifts and monetary benefits.
He pleads that a Committee may be appointed to enact a Conversion of Religion Act, to check the abuse of religion in spirit of the direction in the Sarla Mudgal Case.
In Sarla Mudgal (supra), the Top Court had said,
"The Government may also consider feasibility of appointing a Committee to enact Conversion of Religion Act, immediately, to check the abuse of religion by any person. The law may provide that every citizen who changes his religion cannot marry another wife unless he divorces his first wife. The provision should be made applicable to every person whether he is a Hindu or a Muslim or a Christian or a Sikh or a Jain or a Budh. Provision may be made for maintenance and succession etc. also to avoid clash of interest after death. This would go a long way to solve the problem and pave the way for a unified civil code."
Alternately, the Petitioner states that the Law Commission of India may prepare a Report on Black Magic, Superstition and Religious Conversion within three months in spirit of the Judgment in Sarla Mudgal Case.
Furthermore, the Supreme Court being custodian of the Constitution and protector of fundamental rights, may use its plenary constitutional power to pass directions to stop conversion by carrot and the stick.
In this context, the Petitioner has submitted that Supreme Court is entitled to evolve new principle of liability to make the guaranteed remedy to enforce fundamental rights real and effective, to do complete justice to aggrieved person (Mohammed Ishaq v. S. Kazam Pasha & Anr., (2009) 12 SCC 748).
"It was held that the court was not helpless and the wide powers given to the Court by Article 32, which is fundamental right imposes a constitutional obligation on the Court to forge such new tools, which may be necessary for doing complete justice and enforcing the fundamental rights guaranteed in the Constitution," the pela states.
Recently, the Governments of Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand have enacted anti-religious conversion laws. Both the laws have been challenged before the concerned Courts:
- 'Love Jihad' Laws : Supreme Court Issues Notice On Pleas Challenging UP, Uttarakhand Laws Against Religious Conversion For Marriage
- Plea Challenging Madhya Pradesh Ordinance On Religious Conversion: High Court Issues Notice To Govt.
- Allahabad High Court Issues Notice To UP Govt On Pleas Challenging Love Jihad Ordinance
- No Proposal To Make Central Anti Conversion Law To Curb Inter Faith Marriage: Centre In Lok Sabha
- Himachal Pradesh Legislature Passes Bill To Prohibit Forced Religious Conversion
- "It Is One's Personal Choice To Follow Whatever Religion He Wants": Delhi HC Dismisses PIL Seeking To Control Religious Conversions
Row over UP Ordinance
- Religious Conversion For Marriage Not Exercise Of Choice When It Is Due To Compulsion Of Personal Law: UP Govt Defends 'Love Jihad' Ordinance
- UP Ordinance On Conversion Is Nothing But Criminalization Of Inter-Faith Marriages : Petitioner's Rejoinder In Allahabad High Court
- Allahabad High Court Dismisses Plea For Direction To Centre To Consider Legislating Law Regulating Religious Conversion Along The Lines Of UP Love-Jihad law
- UP Ordinance Criminalizing Religious Conversion By Marriage Is An Assault On Personal Liberty
- UP Ordinance Against Religious Conversions By Marriage Puts Freedom Of Choice & Dignity On Backseat : Justice Madan Lokur