28-Jan-2023  Srinagar booked.net

GovernanceIndiaJudiciary

Freedom Of Religion Doesn't Include Conversion: Indian Govt Tells SC

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Now, the Gujarat government has told the Supreme Court of India that freedom of religion does not include the right to convert others and requested the top court to vacate a high court stay on the provision of a state law that mandates prior permission of the district magistrate if a person chooses to convert their religion before marriage. 

The Gujarat high court had through its orders dated August 19 and August 26, 2021, stayed the operation of section 5 of the state government’s Freedom of Religion Act, 2003.
 
In its affidavit submitted in response to a PIL by advocate Ashwini Upadhyay, the state government said it has filed an application seeking the HC stay be revoked so that the 'provisions to prohibit religious conversions in Gujarat by force, allurement, or fraudulent means be implemented.'
 
“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,” it said.
 
The state government said the meaning and purpose of the word ‘propagate’ in Article 25 of the Constitution was debated in great detail in the constituent assembly, and its inclusion was passed only after the clarification that the fundamental right under Article 25 would not include the right to convert.
 
Pertinently, Article 25 of the Indian Constitution gives the right to Freedom of conscience and free profession, practice, and propagation of religion. 
 
Earlier, the Union government told the Supreme Court that the right to freedom of religion does not include a fundamental right to convert other people to a particular religion. It has also claimed that it is “cognisant of the menace” of alleged conversions and that the laws that “seek to control such practices are necessary to protect the cherished rights of vulnerable sections of the society including women and economically and socially backward classes.”
 
Union government’s stand was also presented in a short affidavit in response to a plea by advocate and Bharatiya Janata Party leader Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay seeking direction to take stringent steps to control fraudulent religious conversion by “intimidation” and through “gifts and monetary benefits 
 
Upadhyay has filed numerous petitions before the Supreme Court – almost all themed around religion – including those seeking a Uniform Civil Code, the setting aside of sections of the Places of Worship (Special Provisions), Act, and challenging certain provisions of the Waqf Act.