12 Dec 2022 9:42 AM GMT
The Supreme Court on Monday took exception to certain scurrilous statements made against minority religions in the PIL filed by BJP leader Ashwini Upadhyay alleging "mass conversions" taking place across the country.The Court asked Senior Advocate Arvind P Datar, who is appearing for the petitioner, who is seeking directions to prevent forceful and deceitful religious conversions, to ensure...
The Supreme Court on Monday took exception to certain scurrilous statements made against minority religions in the PIL filed by BJP leader Ashwini Upadhyay alleging "mass conversions" taking place across the country.
The Court asked Senior Advocate Arvind P Datar, who is appearing for the petitioner, who is seeking directions to prevent forceful and deceitful religious conversions, to ensure that such remarks do not come on record.
Senior Advocate Dushyant Dave, appearing for certain Christian organisations which are seeking to intervene in the matter, told the bench comprising Justices MR Shah and Justice S Ravindra Bhat that the petitioner has made extremely distasteful allegations against other religions. Dave also pointed out that the petitioner Ashwini Upadhyay himself is facing a hate speech case.
"These allegations that certain religions are perpetuating rapes and murders, these averments should not be on your lordships' file. Your lordship should ask them to withdraw. Paragraph 20 to 30 in the additional affidavit are scandalous. It sends terrible signals to the minority communities in the country, that the Supreme Court is allowing this to go uncontested", Dave submitted.
Taking note of this, the bench asked Datar to ensure that such allegations are removed from the record.
"Mr.Datar, please consider what are these allegations. These allegations being made, you consider it and moderate this. You should not have all these on record", Justice Bhat told Arvind Datar.
"If it is a scurrilous remark or a bad remark, they will be removed", Datar assured.
"Please do that", Justice Bhat said.
"You look into it. You personally look into it", Justice Shah also joined.
"Para 20 onwards they say. I will see it again", Datar agreed.
The bench adjourned the hearing to January 9 to await the affidavit of the Central Government. The counsel appearing for the Union Government sought pass over saying that Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehta was engaged in another bench.
In the brief hearing today, Dave requested the bench to allow the applications filed by organisations seeking intervention in the matter. Justice Shah said that it will be considered on the next date of hearing.
'Really sad allegations'
At the outset, Dave submitted, "This is the third petition filed by the petitioner.There are some very serious, vexatious allegations against religions. Please allow us to be impleaded. Allegations are really sad!".
"We will hear you Mr.Counsel", Justice Shah said.
"It is not a question of hearing. Allow us to come on record. Allow us opportunity to file reply. It cannot go uncontested", Dave urged.
"It will not go uncontested", Justice Shah assured. Dave asked then why can't the intervention applications be allowed today itself.
"Today we are just adjourning the matter", Justice Shah said.
"What is the harm in allowing our intervention applications today?", Dave asked.
"What is the harm in considering it the next time?", Justice Shah asked in counter.
"Let me say one thing. These allegations that certain religions are perpetuating rapes and murders, these averments should not be on your lordships' file. Your lordship should ask them to withdraw. Paragraph 20 to 30 in the additional affidavit are scandalous. It sends terrible signals to the minority communities in the country, that the Supreme Court is allowing this to go uncontested", Dave said.
"We have not taken cognizance of those allegations as on today", Justice Shah said.
"Your lordships have taken cognizance. Your lordships have refused to hear us. We have not been made parties", Dave said.
"We never said that you will not be heard or made parties. We are not refusing your applications. We are saying today we are not passing orders", Justice Shah replied.
"The petitioner is facing a Section 153A IPC charge", Dave pointed out.
At this juncture, Datar, who was appearing virtually, made an intervention, "Last time, Justice Shah said everybody will be heard. I don't know what is the reason for worry".
Justice Bhat then told Datar to ensure that scurrilous allegations do not come on record.
Senior Advocates CU Singh (for Kerala Yukthivadi Sanghom), Sanjay Hegde, Raju Ramachandran, Meenakshi Arora also appeared for different intervenors opposing the PIL.
There was a change in the composition of the bench which considered the matter today. A bench comprising Justices MR Shah and S Ravindra Bhat heard the matter, with the latter replacing Justice CT Ravikumar, who was unavailable today.
On the previous occasions, 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.