The Supreme Court today declined to entertain a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) that had sought action against fraudulent religious conversions accomplished through intimidation or deceitful means involving gifts and monetary benefits within the country and direction to the Law Commission of India to prepare a comprehensive report and draft a bill aimed at regulating 'Deceitful Religious Conversion.'

The Bench of Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud, Justice J B Pardiwala and Justice Manoj Misra observed, "Why should the court enter into this thicket? How can the court issue a writ of mandamus to the government," and dismissed the PIL. The bench further remarked that Public Interest Litigations (PILs) have increasingly been used as a means for various petitions of this nature.

"What kind of PIL is this? PIL has become a tool and everyone is coming up with petitions like these," said the Bench and further emphasized that the Court does not operate in an advisory jurisdiction.

In the PIL filed by Jerome Anto, a practising Christian from the Roman Catholic Denomination, through the Advocate-on-Record Bharti Tyagi, it was submitted to the Court that incidents are reported every week throughout the country where conversion is done by intimidating, threatening, deceivingly luring through. gifts/monetary benefits and also using black magic, superstition, and miracles but the Centre has not taken stringent steps to stop this menace.

"There is not even one district which is free of religious conversion by 'hook and crook and the carrot and the stick", read the PIL. It further stated that Article 25 guarantees the propagation of Dharma, not Adharma and the practice of Riti (Customs) and Pratha (Traditions), not Kuriti and Kupratha.

It was submitted that the right of freedom of religion guaranteed by Articles 25 and 26 of the Constitution is expressly made subject to public order, morality and health. Therefore, both articles in terms contemplate those restrictions may be imposed on the rights guaranteed by them in the interests of public order, morality and health.

The Petitioner states "I have understood that conversion is a kind of cultural terrorism which will prey upon indigenous people and their culture. Christianity's main aim is to demolish beliefs and impose the Abrahamic law which aims at controlling the people through the fear of God."

It has also been highlighted in the Petition that the fact that FCRA was revoked for many Christian NGOs is testimony that money is being used for conversion in the garb of social service. Further, it submits that religious conversion by intimidation, threats, luring through gifts, monetary benefits and inducement; which are more serious offences relating to religion are not covered under Chapter-XV of the IPC.

The petitioner submits that women and children are the main targets of foreign-funded missionaries and conversion groups but the Centre and the States have not taken appropriate steps to control religious conversion in the spirit of Article 15(3). "The situation is alarming as many individuals and organizations are carrying mass conversion of socially and economically underprivileged and SCS-STS either by use of force or by allurement thus exploiting their poverty", reads the PIL.

The petition also highlights the several incidents involving alleged conversions. It states that for instance, on November 9, 2021, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) exposed a conversion racket occurring in a Missionary Girls' Hostel in Raisen, Madhya Pradesh. Another incident occurred on December 3, 2021, when a controversy erupted as a private missionary school refused entry to a student wearing a Lord Ayyappa mala. Additionally, in December 2021, eight children from Saint Joseph School, a Missionary School located in the Vidisha district of Madhya Pradesh, were reported to have been forcibly converted to Christianity.

Cause Title: Jerome Anto v. Union of India And Ors. [Diary No. 1307-2023]