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The right to religion is not the right to convert: Centre tells Supreme Court

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New Delhi, Nov 28: The right to freedom of religion does not include the right to convert an individual, the Centre has told the Supreme Court.

The Centre also said that the right to religion does not mean that people have a right to convert a person through fraud, deception, coercion, allurement or other such means.

The right to religion is not the right to convert: Centre tells Supreme Court

The Centre also said enactments to protect against forcible conversions are necessary for protecting cherished rights of the vulnerable sections of the society, including women, economically and socially backward classes.

Nine states over the course of the years have passed enactments seeking to curb this practice. Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana are the states which already have legislations in place on conversion, the Centre also submitted.

Hindu population down courtesy religious conversions, illegal migration: Dattatreya HosabaleHindu population down courtesy religious conversions, illegal migration: Dattatreya Hosabale

On November 15 the Supreme Court had emphasised the forced conversions are dangerous and they affect the security of the nation. The court also urged the Centre to step in and appraise the court about the measures being taken to prevent such occurences.

A Bench comprising Justices M R Shah and Hina Kohli asked the Centre to finalise its stand on the issue of forced conversions and also submit an affidavit. "This is a very serious matter. It is seriously against interest of nation. Everybody has right to choose religion but not by force or by giving some temptation. It is a very dangerous thing," the Bench observed while hearing a petition. Filed by advocate Ashwini Upadhyay who had sought stringent steps to control, religious conversion through fraud and intimidation.

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"Why have you not filed your counter? This is a very serious matter and sincere efforts are to be made," the Bench had asked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta. He pointed out that there have been state legislations to prevent forced conversions and the Supreme Court had affirmed them when such laws had come under challenge.

"There may be a freedom of religion, but no freedom on forced conversion. What steps have been taken by the Union of India? Otherwise, it is very difficult. Please, make your stand very clear. What action you propose to take? Conversion is under the Constitution but not forcible conversion," the Bench said.

Mehta gave instances where allurements had been made to convert one's conscience by offering rice and wheat in some parts of the country. It is rampant in tribal areas, he said. To this the Bench said, 'now you step in.'

The Bench had then issued a short order and posted the matter for November 28. "The issue with respect to alleged conversion of religion, if it is found to be correct and true, is a very serious issue which may ultimately affect the security of the nation as well as the freedom of religion and conscience of the citizens. Therefore, it is better that Union government may make their stand clear and file counter on what further steps can be taken by Union and/or others to curb such forced conversion maybe by force, allurement or fraudulent means," the Bench had said in a short order.

The Sikhs are fighting the biggest battle of their lives and that is forced conversion to ChristianityThe Sikhs are fighting the biggest battle of their lives and that is forced conversion to Christianity

The petitioner contended that the Centre has failed to control incidents of forced conversions, which are rampant among the economically under privileged people, particularly those belonging to the Schedule Castes and Schedule Tribes. He said the this offends the Constitutional rights of equality, live and livery, religion he said while adding that this is also against the principles of secularism, which is an integral part of the basic structure.

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