The Supreme Court today 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.

The Bench of Justice M R Shah and Justice Hima Kohli made the observations while dealing with a petition filed by Advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay seeking directions to Centre to take steps to control fraudulent religious conversions. Upadhayay appeared before the Court today in person.

The Court observed that there may be freedom of religion but no freedom for forced conversion. The Court said that a "very difficult situation" will emerge due to such religious conversions and asked about the action proposed to be taken by the Union of India against conversion by force.

"This is a very serious matter. Sincere efforts are to be made by the Centre to stop forced conversions. Otherwise, a very difficult situation will come. Tell us what action do you propose, you have to step in," the Bench told Solicitor General Tushar Mehta.

Mehta told the Court that it has upheld the validity of statutes by states to prevent such forms of religious conversions. He also said that such conversions are rampant in tribal areas.

When Upadhyay submitted that a provision has to be incorporated in the IPC to criminalize such acts of conversions, Justice Shah asked who will complain in such cases for a crime to be registered.

Tushar Mehta agreed and submitted, "Many a time the victims are not aware they are the subject matter of criminal offence and would say they are being helped".

Tushar Mehta also said that converting people by giving rice and wheat is against freedom of conscience.

The plea 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.

The Centre is expected to file a response on November 22 and the next hearing has been scheduled on November 28.

Earlier the Court had issued notices to the Home Ministry and the Law Ministry regarding the same. Upadhyay has said in his petition filed through Advocate Ashwini Kumar Dubey that "There is not even on district which is free of religious conversion by 'hook and crook and the carrot and the stick.' 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, miracles but Centre has not taken stringent steps to stop this menace."

Cause Title- Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay v. Union of India & Others