“Very Serious Matter” : Supreme Court Asks Attorney General to Assist in Religious Conversions Case

“Very Serious Matter” : Supreme Court Asks Attorney General to Assist in Religious Conversions Case

Rintu Mariam Biju

On Monday, the Supreme Court asked the Attorney General for India, R Venkataramani to assist the court in the plea seeking to curb forceful and deceitful religious conversions.

A Bench of Justices MR Shah and CT Ravikumar also changed the case title of the PIL filed by BJP leader Ashwini Upadhyay as “In Re : Issue of religious conversion”, while adjourning the matter to February 7.
“The present petition is titled ‘in re issue of religious conversion’ henceforth. Looking into the seriousness and importance of the matter, Attorney General for India, R Venkataramani is requested to appear in the matter and assist the Court either as amicus or otherwise in any form”, the order read.
During the hearing today, the Bench said the issue of forceful religious conversions is a “serious matter”.
“We want your assistance also, as the Attorney General for India. Religious conversions by force, allurement or some other thing, etc…these are allegations. We are not opining whether it has actually happened or not. If actually it is happening, because there is a difference between right to freedom of religion and right to convert. There are ways and ways, anything by allurement, if that is happening, when what should be done? What are the corrective measures?”, the Bench asked the AG, who assured that he would get back after examining the case records.
Senior Advocate P Wilson appearing for the State of Tamil Nadu said that the matter should be left up to the legislature to decide and added that the plea was politically motivated. He said that the petitioner was a BJP member and the petition was politically motivated.
“Don’t bring a political color. Please keep it aside. You can place what you want on record”, the Bench was quick to respond. It added that even if the petitioner is a man from the Bharatiya Janata Party, the Bench would still go into the matter.
Wilson also pointed out that the petitioner had sedition charges against him.
“It makes no difference so far as courts are concerned”, Justice Shah said.
“Restrict to point under consideration. Don’t bring anything else”, Justice Shah told Wilson.
Senior Advocate Arvind Datar, appearing for the petitioner submitted that there’s nothing under the Indian Penal Code regarding the punishment for forced religious conversion.
During the previous hearing, the Bench had asked the Datar to consider withdrawing scurrilous allegationsagainst other religions. Noting that the allegations weren’t withdrawn, many advocates raised objections against it.
“We are not pressing on those statements. We are only on merits”, Datar informed.
“As far as Tamil Nadu is concerned, this is perjury. He (the petitioner) has made a wrong statement” Wilson argued.
“You may have different reasons to be agitated like this. Don’t convert court proceedings into other things. We are not concerned with A state or B state. We are concerned for the entire nation.  Do not see it as targeting one State. Do not make it political”, the Bench reiterated.
When Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehta, joined the hearing midway, Justice Shah told him :”Mr.Mehta what is this, you are not serious in this matter. Last two occasions also you were not there counsel. We have seen”.
SG stated that it is a matter of national interest and is being taken seriously. At this juncture, Wilson stated that the petitioner had filed petitions on the same cause earlier too. But the bench said that it will go by the cause and not the petitioner.
“Ultimately once the matter has been brought to the notice of the court, the court will decide on merits. Not on the basis of the petitioner. We have to consider the cause”, Justice Shah said.
“Court can ignore the petitioner”, SG Mehta said.
“We want the assistance of the Attorney General also, it is a very serious matter”, Justice Shah said. After a short while, AG appeared before the bench and assured assistance.
Senior Advocate Sanjay Hegde made the suggestion to the bench to change the case title.
Senior Advocates Meenakshi Arora, Huzefa Ahmadi, CU Singh also appeared in the matter for certain intervenors.
Earlier, the bench comprising Justices MR Shah and CT Ravikumar had observed that forceful conversions were a serious issue. Commenting that charity cannot be used for conversion, the bench had asked the Centre to collect information from States regarding the steps taken against conversions through force or allurement.

The bench had also said that it will not accept the objections raised against the maintainability of the PIL by certain intervenors, who pointed out that the Supreme Court had earlier refused to entertain a similar PIL filed by the same petitioner on the same issue. The intervenors alleged that the petitioner was indulging in forum-shopping after unsuccessfully pursuing the matter before other benches in the Supreme Court and the Delhi High Court.

A number of intervention applications have been filed in the Supreme Court alleging that the PIL has been filed on the basis of Whatsapp forwards and unattributed sources to create a false narrative of mass conversions. It has also been alleged that the PIL has made derogatory statements against minorities to further a political agenda.

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“Very Serious Matter” : Supreme Court Asks Attorney General To Assist In Religious Conversions Case


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