Predatory Proselytization Offends Right To Dignity Under Article 21: Read Written Submission In PIL Against Deceitful Conversion
The Petitioner in the PIL before the Supreme Court against the deceitful religious conversions has filed his written submission.
The written submission has been filed by Petitioner Advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay after the Supreme Court adjourned the matter to December 12 at the request of the Center for it to file its affidavit. Senior Advocate Arvind P. Datar appeared for the Petitioner in the case.
The written submission filed through Advocate Ashwini Kumar Dubey says that wrongful religious conversion directly offends the right to life, liberty and dignity guaranteed under Article 21 and that predatory proselytization tears apart the fabric of the communities where it occurs and has led to social disorder and unrest.
The Petitioner has sought direction from the Apex Court to the Centre and State Governments for taking appropriate steps in prohibiting such religious conversions nationwide and stated, "… religious conversion by intimidation, threats and deceivingly luring through gifts and monetary benefits is an offence in Ghaziabad-Noida but not in adjoining East Delhi. Similarly, religious conversion is an offence in Gurugram-Faridabad but not in adjoining West and South Delhi. This is not only contrary to Articles 14, 25, 26 but is also conflicting with the principles of secularism and rule of law, which are part of the basic structure of the Constitution."
The Petitioner contended that that the Centre and States have not taken appropriate steps to control religious conversion in the spirit of Article 15(3) and the situation is alarming as many individuals and organisations have been carrying out the mass conversion of socially and economically underprivileged and SCs-STs by use of force and allurement.
The Petitioner also submitted, "... the right to religion guaranteed under Article 25 is not an absolute right but subject to public order, health and morality. Therefore, religious conversion by using miracles, superstition and black magic is not protected under Article 25. However, due to the outdated ineffective provisions of the IPC in this regard, foreign funded Individuals and NGOs are converting EWS-BPL category citizens to other religions by intimidating, threatening, deceivingly luring through gifts and monetary benefits."
The Petitioner further submitted that due to Centre and State's inaction, many mosques and churches have become epicenter of black magic, superstition and religious bigotry and the ultimate purpose is to convert economically weaker sections including scheduled castes and scheduled tribes and likewise, many maulvis and pastors are converting poor people by intimidating, threatening, deceivingly luring through gifts and monetary benefits.
It has been submitted by the Petitioner that there is massive foreign funding through money laundering and FCRA to NGOs and individuals from Gulf and Western countries to convert Indians. The Petitioner in this regard said, "Although, Centre has cancelled the FCRA license of few NGOs but neither it amended the FCRA, Money Laundering Act, Benami Property Act and Black Money Act nor it changed the VISA Rules for religious preachers and missionaries."
The Petitioner further stated that the main emphasis of Christians for conversions is on the poor illiterate tribal people residing in remote or forest areas in North East States, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh where large scale conversion has been done by Christian Missionaries who provide medical facilities, loans, food, etc. and convert several tribal and poor people into Christianity that is leading to an alarming increase in the Christian population in many of such States.
The Petitioner, therefore prayed, "... there is an immediate need to pass a specific law by the Parliament for taking away the status of Scheduled Tribes and all benefits given under the Constitution of India to the members of Scheduled Tribes if they convert from Hindu scheduled tribe to Christianity or Muslim or any other foreign religion etc."
It was also submitted by the Petitioner that the Hindus have become a minority in many states due to conversion by intimidation threats, gifts and monetary benefits, offering other help like school admission, medical benefits and using superstition and black magic.
Hence, the Petitioner has sought direction to call upon the Law Commission of India to suggest suitable legislation and guidelines for checking unlawful fraudulent religious conversions. The Petitioner also prayed that the Central Government be directed to:
1. review FCRA Rules for foreign funded NGOs and individuals;
2. take stringent steps to control funding through Hawala and FCRA;
3. review Audit Guidelines for foreign funded NGOs and individuals;
4. review VISA Rules for religious preachers & foreigner missionaries;
5. take steps to confiscate benami properties & disproportionate assets of person & institutions involved in fraudulent religious conversion; and
6. direct and declare that Section 31 Cr.PC shall not apply to the provisions relating to unlawful fraudulent religious conversion and, Sentence shall be Consecutive, not concurrent.
In September, the Bench of Justice MR Shah and Justice Krishna Murari issued notice on the plea and sought a response from the Centre on the PIL.
The Gujarat Government has supported the plea by filing an affidavit before the Court stating that the right to freedom of religion does not include a fundamental right to convert other people to a particular religion.