Freedom Of Religion Does Not Include Fundamental Right To Convert Other People: Gujarat Govt Tells SC
The Gujarat Government has filed an affidavit before the Supreme Court supporting the plea against forced religious conversion. The affidavit has been filed by Additional Secretary (Law & Order), Home Department of the state in reply to the PIL filed by Advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay against forced and deceitful religious conversions.
The Gujarat Government has submitted that the right to freedom of religion does not include a fundamental right to convert other people to a particular religion.
The affidavit says, "It is submitted that the right to freedom of religion does not include a fundamental right to convert other people to a particular religion. The said right certainly does not include the right to convert an individual through fraud, deception, coercion, allurement or other such means."
The affidavit filed by the Gujarat Government mentions the Gujarat Freedom of Religion Act, 2003, which provides for prohibition of conversion from one religion to another by use of force or allurement or by fraudulent means for the matters incidental thereto.
The State Government has stated that the Gujarat Freedom of Religion Act, 2003 is a validly constituted legislation protecting the cherished rights of vulnerable sections of the society including women and economically and socially backward classes.
"…the Act of 2003 is a validly constituted legislation and more particularly the provision of section 5 of the Act of 2003, which is holding the field since last 8 years and thus, a valid provision of law so as to achieve the objective of the Act of 2003 and to maintain the public order within the State of Gujarat by protecting the cherished rights of vulnerable sections of the society including women and economically and socially backward classes.", the affidavit read.
The Gujarat government has pointed out the Order staying 'Section 5' of its 2003 Act which provides for prior permission to be taken from the District Magistrate before any person is converted.
Certain provisions in the 2003 Act were stayed by the Gujarat high court which included Section 5 requiring prior permission for conversion from District Magistrate.
The PIL filed by Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay has also sought directions towards the Law Commission of India to prepare a report and a bill to control religious conversion by intimidation, threatening, deceivingly luring through gifts and monetary benefits.
On a previous hearing, the Centre was directed to file its response to the plea. The Court had observed that religious conversion by force or allurement is a very serious issue that can affect the freedom of religion and conscience and the security of the nation.