The Supreme Court declared forcible conversion to a different religion to be a ‘very serious issue’ that could have an impact on national security, religious liberty, and freedom of conscience. The highest court requested that the central government provide an affidavit outlining the measures that can be taken to stop such forced conversions.
A Public Interest Litigation (PIL) asking the Centre and states to take strict action against forced religious conversion carried out through intimidation or by enticing people with gifts and financial incentives was being heard by a bench of Justices MR Shah and Hima Kohli.
The bench referred to such coercive religious conversion as a very serious issue and said it is time for the Center to intervene to put a stop to them before things get complicated.
MR. Justice Shah said: ‘The security of the country may potentially be impacted by forced conversion. Therefore, it would be preferable if the Center made it plain where it stands and what efforts it is taking to put an end to forced conversions.’
The petitioner in the case, attorney Ashwani Upadhyay, stated that either a separate law be created to regulate such conversions or the offence be added to the current Indian Penal Code (IPC). He continued by saying that the problem is a general Indian problem that requires immediate attention.
The Centre’s Solicitor General, Tushar Mehta, told the bench that the matter had been discussed in the constituent assembly and that the government is aware of the situation. The government’s side will submit a response, he added.
The top court additionally ordered the Center to express its position ‘very clearly’ regarding the steps it intended to take. The Constitution, it was noted, permits religious conversion, but not coercive conversion.
The Centre was ordered by the court to submit any counteraffidavits in the matter, along with its answer, by November 22.
The case’s subsequent hearing is slated for November 28.