Legislation against forced religious conversion necessary to protect vulnerable sections of society, Centre tells Supreme Court | India News
“The right to freedom of religion does not include the right to convert an individual through fraud, deception, coercion, allurement or other such means,” the Union ministry of home affairs said in an affidavit.
The Centre’s response came on a plea by advocate Ashwini Upadhyay against fraudulent religious conversion and religious conversion by intimidation, threatening, deceivingly luring through gifts and monetary benefits, as it offends Articles 14, 21, and 25.
The plea claimed that if such conversions were not checked, Hindus would soon become a minority in India.
The Central government said the petitioner has highlighted a large number of instances carried out in an organised, systematic and sophisticated manner of conversion of vulnerable citizens in the country through fraud, deception, coercion, allurement or other such means.
It further added that the meaning and purport of the word ‘propagate’ falling under Article 25 of the Constitution was discussed and debated in great detail in the constituent assembly and the inclusion of the said word was passed by the constituent assembly only after the clarification that the fundamental right under Article 25 would not include the right to convert.
The Centre said the apex court has held that the word ‘propagate’ does not envisage the right to convert a person rather is in the nature of the positive right to spread once religion by exposition of its tenets.
Nine states over the course of years have passed enactments seeking to curb forced religious conversion, the Centre said.
Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka & Haryana are the states which already have legislation in place on conversion, it said.
Justifying legislation to prevent conversion, the Centre said “Such enactments are necessary for protecting cherished rights of vulnerable sections of the society including women and economically and socially backward classes.”
On November 14, the Supreme Court said forced religious conversion is a “very serious issue”, and may affect the security of the nation and asked the Centre to make its stand clear on what steps can be taken to curb forced conversions.
The top court said there is freedom of religion, but no freedom on forced conversion.
(With inputs from agencies)