SC tells Centre: ‘Forced Conversions’ Threat to National Security & Freedom of Religion


Akansha Upadhyay

Published on: 16 November 2022 at 18:58 IST

The Supreme Court said that forced conversions in India may ultimately affect the national security or freedom of religion and suggested the Centre to consider enacting a law to deal with the same. SC asks government to consider enacting law to deal with forced religious conversion The Supreme Court on Monday asked the central government to consider enacting a law to deal with the menace of forced religious conversions in India.

Facts of the case is One arrested for forcing woman to convert to Islam in Muzaffarnagar In a case of alleged forced religious conversion, police in Uttar Pradesh’s Muzaffarnagar district on Saturday arrested a man for forcing a woman to convert to Islam.

The bench of Justices MR Shah and Hima Kohli said, “There may be freedom of religion but there may not be freedom of religion by forced conversion… This is a very serious issue. Everybody has the right to choose their religion, but not by forced conversion or by giving temptation,”

The court ordered the Centre to file an affidavit on or before November 22, detailing what actions it proposed to take to curb forced conversions. It said such conversions were reported to be found more in poor and tribal areas.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, for the Centre, said forced conversions were “rampant” in tribal areas.

He further added that, “Giving of rice, wheat, clothes, etc., etc., can never be a ground for asking a person to change his conscience, or bargain on my fundamental right to religion,

The petitioner, Advocate Ashwini Upadhyay, said there should be a special law against forced conversions or the Act should be incorporated as an offence in the Indian Penal Code.

Mr. Mehta said the word “propagate” had come up for consideration in the Constituent Assembly debates. “It was decided that the term did not mean forcible conversions,”

He submitted that the apex court had dealt with Acts passed by Madhya Pradesh and Orissa against forcible conversion and had held that “freedom of conscience of every person includes freedom not to be allowed to change his conscience and convert…”

The Solicitor General was referring to the Supreme Court’s 1997 judgment by a Constitution Bench in Rev. Stainislaus vs. State of Madhya Pradesh, which had held that the word “propagate” in Article 25 did not give “the right to convert another person to one’s own religion, but to transmit or spread one’s religion by an exposition of its tenets”.

The Constitution Bench had also held there was “no fundamental right to convert another person to one’s own religion”. Freedom of religion is not guaranteed in respect of one religion only, but covers all religions alike.

If a person purposely undertakes the conversion of another person to his religion, as distinguished from his effort to transmit or spread the tenets of his religion, that would impinge on the ‘freedom of conscience’ guaranteed to all the citizens of the country alike,” the 1977 judgment had reasoned.

Mr. Upadhyay has alleged “mass conversions” of socially and economically underprivileged people, particularly those belonging to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.

SC asks parties to file replies to PIL seeking ban on forced religious conversions by Friday.

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