Published on: 29 November 2022 at 18:15 IST
The Supreme Court reiterated that the issue of forced religious conversion is a “major concern” and ordered the Union Government to request information from all the States regarding the actions taken.
A PIL filed by BJP leader Ashwini Upadhyay asking for action to prevent forced religious conversion through coercion, threats, or inducement with gifts and money was being heard by a bench made up of Justices MR Shah and CT Ravikumar.
Solicitor General of India, Tushar Mehta, informed the court that the Centre had submitted an affidavit on November 27 declaring that it is “cognizant of the gravity and the seriousness” of the forced conversions problem.
The SG used the word ‘menance’ to describe the matter when taken up by the Court for hearing.
Sanjay Hegde, a senior counsel, stood on behalf of the party opposing the petition and requesting an implement. Hegde argued that the petition was withdrawn in front of a three-judge bench, rendering it unmaintainable.
The Bench questioned, “How does it matter whether it is heard by this court or any other court? Hegde was questioned by Justice Shah about his position on coerced conversions.
“The petition was initially withdrawn in front of the Supreme Court and Delhi High Court. It is necessary to keep PIL pure.”
Hedge said of the petitioner, “He has a political face, I won’t comment about it now. The senior counsel continued by saying that PILs also fall under the definition of res judicata.”
The Bench also requested that the Centre research what other states have done in the case while delaying the matter until December 5. The bench stated that it is asking the Centre to compile the material rather than sending notices to each State. If not, there will always be one state that requests more time, added Justice Shah.
The Solicitor General agreed that asking each state to submit a response would be “recipe for a delayed hearing” if the court did it. The Bench was informed by SG Mehta that the Centre’s affidavit previously listed nine states that had already passed laws prohibiting forced religious talks.
Hegde suggested that the bench take the maintainability problem under consideration first. According to the bench, it has just requested that the Centre submit its counter-affidavit in this case. The Solicitor General urged that the bench consider both Hegde’s application and the PIL concurrently.
During the hearing, Hegde pleaded with the judge to let other lawyers also present their arguments.
The next hearing on this matter was scheduled for December 5.