Freedom of religion doesn't include right to convert: Centre tells SCtext_fields
New Delhi: On a plea by advocate Ashwini Upadhyay against fraudulent religious conversion, the Centre told the Supreme Court that the right to freedom of religion does not include a fundamental right to convert people to a particular religion.
The plea also sought response to religious conversion by intimidation, threatening, deceivingly luring through gifts and monetary benefits, as it offends Articles 14, 21, and 25. It claimed that if such conversions were not checked, Hindus would soon become a minority in India.
In an affidavit, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs said: "It is submitted that the right to freedom of religion does not include a fundamental right to convert other people to a particular religion. The said right certainly does not include the right to convert an individual through fraud, deception, coercion, allurement or other such means".
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.
"This Court further held that fraudulent or induced conversion impinges upon the right to freedom of conscience of an individual apart from hampering public order and, therefore, the State was well within its power to regulate/restrict the same," it added.
The Centre pointed out that nine state governments have already have legislations in place on the present subject viz. Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, and Haryana.
It said that the reliefs sought in the present petition would be taken up in all seriousness by it and appropriate steps shall be taken as it is cognizant of the menace.