The Supreme Court on Monday came down heavily on the Tamil Nadu government and advised it to refrain from adding political colour to the issue of religious conversion.
Terming it a very serious issue, a bench of Justices MR Shah and CT Ravikumar also sought the assistance of Attorney General R Venkataramani in the matter. The court was hearing a petition filed by BJP leader Ashwini Upadhyay seeking to curb forceful and deceitful religious conversions.
Appearing for Tamil Nadu, senior advocate P Wilson termed the petition “politically motivated” and insisted that there was no instance of any such conversion and argued that the matter is left to the legislature to decide. Taking exception to the counsel’s submission, the court asked advocate Wilson to refrain from giving the issue a political colour.
“You may have different reasons to be agitated like this. Don’t convert court proceedings into other things… We are concerned for the entire state. If it is happening in your state, it is bad. If not, good. Do not see it as targeting one state. Do not make it political,” the court observed.
“Religious conversions by force, allurement, etc. There are ways… anything by allurement, if that is happening, then what should be done? What are the corrective measures?” the bench asked while requesting the AG for his assistance in the matter as amicus curiae.
The petitioner, in his PIL, has sought a check on religious conversions through “intimidation, threatening, deceivingly luring through gifts and monetary benefits and seeks directions to the Centre and states to take tough steps to control fraudulent religious conversions.
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In a recent hearing on the same matter, the top court noted that forced religious conversion may pose a serious danger to national security and impinge on the religious freedom of citizens.
The top court further asked the Centre to step in and make sincere efforts to tackle the “very serious” issue, failing which, it warned, a “very difficult situation” will emerge if proselytisation through deception, allurement and intimidation is not stopped.
In an earlier hearing, the Gujarat government had informed the court that freedom of religion does not include the right to convert others, and requested it to vacate a high court stay on the provision of a state law that mandates prior permission of the district magistrate for conversion through marriage.
The Supreme Court had on September 23 sought responses from the Centre and others to the plea. The court has posted the matter for the next hearing on February 7.