16 Jan 2023 10:31 AM GMT
The Supreme Court on Monday commented critically on the conduct of BJP leader Ashwini Upadhyay in filing different petitions before different benches of Supreme Court and the Delhi High Court on the same subject of religious conversions.A bench comprising Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud, Justice PS Narasimha and Justice JB Pardiwala was hearing a PIL petition filed by Upadhyay in...
The Supreme Court on Monday commented critically on the conduct of BJP leader Ashwini Upadhyay in filing different petitions before different benches of Supreme Court and the Delhi High Court on the same subject of religious conversions.
A bench comprising Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud, Justice PS Narasimha and Justice JB Pardiwala was hearing a PIL petition filed by Upadhyay in 2022 seeking steps against forceful and deceitful religious conversions.
During the hearing, the bench was told by Senior Advocate P Wilson, appearing for the State of Tamil Nadu, that the petitioner had in 2021 withdrawn a similar petition from the Supreme Court, after a bench led by Justice RF Nariman refused to entertain the same. He has filed and withdrawn similar petitions in the Delhi High Court as well, the senior counsel pointed out.
After referring to the proceedings cited by Wilson, CJI Chandrachud told Upadhyay's counsel Senior Advocate Gaurav Bhatia : "It seems that PIL petitioners don't think they're bound by rules of pleadings....You cannot keep on withdrawing and filing new petitions".
"Is it correct that you withdraw the petition on April 9, 2021 before the bench of Justice Nariman?", CJI asked Bhatia. The CJI added that the objection raised regarding the maintainability of the PIL will be considered at an appropriate stage.
The PIL- which was renamed as "In Re : Issue of Religious Conversion" by an order passed by a bench led by Justice Shah last week- was listed along with a batch of petitions challenging the anti-conversion laws enacted by various States.
Senior Advocate Dushyant Dave, appearing for an intervenor, highlighted that "distasteful and shocking" statements have been made by petitioner "casting aspersions on" Christians and Muslims. Senior Advocate Arvind P Datar, who was also appearing for Upadhyay, replied that he had assured on the last occasion that such statements will not be pressed.
"Mr Datar, please make a formal application and delete those paragraphs", CJI said.
As regards the petitions challenging anti-conversion laws of States, Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for one of the petitioners, informed the bench that they are intending to file a petition to transfer to the Supreme Court the petitions pending in various High Courts challenging these laws.
The batch of petitions will be listed after two weeks. Senior Advocates CU Singh, Sanjay Hegde, Indira Jaising, Vrinda Grover etc., appeared for various petitioners.
Attorney General for India R Venkataramani, whose assistance was sought by Justice Shah's bench last week in the religious conversion matter, suggested that it will be appropriate that the High Courts hear the matter, as the validity of various laws are under challenge. The petitioners then submitted that all these laws have similar provisions.
Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehta mentioned that the State of Madhya Pradesh has field a petition against the order of MP High Court which stayed certain provisions of the state law and requested that the same be separately considered. The SG also said that he is questioning the locus of the NGO "Citizens for Justice and Peace" which has filed one of the writ petitions.
On January 9, the bench led by Justice MR Shah had changed the causetitle of the PIL filed by BJP leader Ashwini Upadhyay(WP(c) No.63/2022) as "In Re : The Issue of Religious Conversion". Observing that the matter was "very serious", the bench had also sought the assistance of Attorney General for India R Venkataramani.
Several Christian and Muslim organisations have filed intervention applications in the matter taking exception to certain statements made by the petitioner against minorities. In the hearing held on December 12, 2022, Justice S Ravindra Bhat, who was sharing the bench with Justice MR Shah, had asked the petitioner's counsel Senior Advocate Arvind Datar to withdraw the scurrilous allegations against other religions.
Previously, the bench comprising Justices MR Shah and CT Ravikumar had observed that forceful conversions were a serious issue. Commenting that charity cannot be used for conversion, the bench had asked the Centre to collect information from States regarding the steps taken against conversions through force or allurement.
The bench had also said that it will not accept the objections raised against the maintainability of the PIL by certain intervenors, who pointed out that the Supreme Court had earlier refused to entertain a similar PIL filed by the same petitioner on the same issue. The intervenors alleged that the petitioner was indulging in forum-shopping after unsuccessfully pursuing the matter before other benches in the Supreme Court and the Delhi High Court.
A number of intervention applications have been filed in the Supreme Court alleging that the PIL has been filed on the basis of Whatsapp forwards and unattributed sources to create a false narrative of mass conversions. It has also been alleged that the PIL has made derogatory statements against minorities to further a political agenda.
Case : CITIZENS FOR JUSTICE AND PEACE v. THE STATE OF UTTAR PRADESH & ANR. Writ Petition(s)(Criminal) No(s).428/2020 and connected matters
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