New Delhi, June 3 (IANS) The Delhi High Court on Friday, while dealing with a plea against forced religious conversions, observed that every person has a right to choose and profess any religion of choice, saying it’s a Constitutional right.
A bench of Justices Sanjeev Sachdeva and Tushar Rao Gedela noted, “If someone is forced to convert, then it’s a different issue but to convert is a person’s prerogative.”
The bench was hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) moved by BJP leader and lawyer Ashwini Upadhyay, seeking directions to the Centre and Delhi government to prohibit religious conversion through intimidation, threats, deception, or “by using black magic and superstition”.
During the course of the hearing, the bench questioned the petitioner asking about the basis of his plea.
“You have given three Supreme Court judgments and the rest is your averment,” the bench said.
When the bench asked for the data on mass conversion alleged by the petitioner, he said he has the data from social media platforms.
To this, the court replied: “Social media is not data. It can be morphed. Things done 20 years ago are shown as done yesterday.”
In the PIL, Upadhyay contended that Article 14 ensures equality before the law and secures equal protection of the law.
Presently, religious conversion by intimidating, threatening, and deceivingly luring through gifts and monetary benefits is an offence in Uttar Pradesh’s Ghaziabad but not in adjoining east Delhi.
Similarly, religious conversion by using black magic and superstition is an offence in Gurugram but not in adjoining west Delhi. It not only violates Articles 14 but is also contrary to principles of secularism and rule of law, which are the basic structure of the Constitution, he claimed.
The plea alleged that women and children are the main target of “foreign funded conversion mafias” but the Centre and the Delhi governments have not taken appropriate steps to control the religious conversion by “the carrot and the stick” in spirit of Article 15(3), and called on the court to intervene.
“Many foreign-funded individuals and NGOs are converting EWS-BPL citizens to foreign religions by intimidating, threatening, deceivingly luring through gifts and monetary benefits,” he alleged.
Upadhyay prayed for directions to the Centre and the Delhi governments to take appropriate stringent steps to prohibit religious conversion by “the carrot and the stick” and “by hook or crook” in order to maintain and promote fraternity, assure the dignity of individual, and unity and integrity of the nation.