The Supreme Court on Monday said that the freedom of religion doesn’t include forced conversion, any charity is welcome.
The Supreme Court on Monday said that the freedom of religion doesn’t include forced conversion, any charity is welcome, but it could not be for conversion purpose, while hearing a PIL seeking steps to ban forced religious conversion.
“Charity is welcome. But the purpose of the charity should not be conversion. The freedom of religion doesn’t include forced conversion. No conversion through force, allurement,” the two-judge bench of the Supreme Court, headed by Justice M R Shah and also comprising Justice C T Ravikumar, observed. “We are here for solution, to set things right. Every charity or good work is welcome, but the intention has to be checked,” the Apex Court observed.
“Everybody has a right to choose religion. But that does not mean that you can convert by luring. If you want to help a particular community, you help. But the purpose of charity should not be conversion. Every good work is welcome. But what is required to be considered is the intention. The intention must be very clear,” the Supreme Court observed.
The Supreme Court was hearing the PIL (Public Interest Litigation) filed by lawyer and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader, Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay seeking steps to ban forced religious conversion, including stringent provisions in the Indian Penal Code (IPC). The Centre and Gujarat government has already filed their respective response supporting the PIL and strongly favouring a national law to deal with the menace.
During the course of the hearing, the Supreme Court said, this forced conversion is a very serious issue. “Its is a very serious. Because this (forced conversion) is against our Constitution. Everyone stays in India, they have to act as per the culture and religious harmony of India,” the SC observed.
The Solicitor General (SG) Tushar Mehta submitted that the Center is gathering data from the states. He submitted that the state of Gujarat has a strong law in this regard and that a stay has been granted with respect to the law.
He was asked by the Bench to mention that matter before the CJI. The Supreme Court asked the Centre to file a detailed affidavit after collecting information from the State governments on anti-conversion laws and posts the matter for further hearing on December 12.
The petitioner, Upadhyay, claimed that fraudulent and deceitful religious conversion is rampant across the country. Upadhyay seeks direction from the Law Commission of India to prepare a report and a bill to control religious conversion by intimidation, threatening, and deceivingly luring through gifts and monetary benefits.
On the previous hearing, the Centre was directed to file its response to the plea. Upadhyay has said in his petition filed through Advocate Ashwini Kumar Dubey that “There is not even on the district which is free of religious conversion by ‘hook and crook and the carrot and the stick.’ Incidents are reported every week throughout the country where conversion is done by intimidating, threatening, deceivingly luring through gifts/monetary benefits and also using black magic, superstition, miracles but Centre has not taken stringent steps to stop this menace.”
The state of Gujarat has filed an affidavit in the case stating that the right to freedom of religion does not include a fundamental right to convert other people to a particular religion.
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