NEW DELHI: BJP leader and advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, who is spearheading judicial reforms through a host of PILs, has got a fillip of sorts with the Supreme Court on Friday seeking the Centre's reply on his plea to stop religious conversion being undertaken by deceit, lure or fraudulent means.
He has raised an important question that the Constitution of India has been made by the Indians and for the Indians, not for foreigners, so why conversion mafia should be allowed to operate with impunity to target gullible citizens and convert them of foreign religion.
"The Constitution protects and propagates Indian languages not foreign languages, Indian religions not foreign religions, Indian traditions not foreign traditions, Indian customs not foreign customs and Indian culture not foreign culture. Therefore, this court cannot be a mute spectator if followers of Indian religions are being converted to foreign religion due to the Executive's inaction by use of force, allurement or fraudulent means," his plea said.
He said that Article 25 gives right to religion, not right to conversion. Article 25 is a protective as well as an enabling provision. On one hand, it secures right to custom (रीति) but on other hand, it enables the State to prohibit ill-custom (कुरीति). On one hand, it secures right to tradition (प्रथा) but on the other hand, it permits the State to control ill tradition (कुप्रथा). On one hand it secures right to religion (धर्म) but on other hand, it empowers the State to control conversion (धर्मांतरण).
Unfortunately, neither Centre has amended Chapter-XV of Indian Penal Code nor has the State enacted an Anti-Conversion Law in spirit of Article 25, he rued in his plea.
Among other grounds, he also cited Article 29 which secures the right to culture, custom and tradition of every citizen but due to Centre-State’s inaction and legal vacuum, this basic right is being seriously violated.
He also relied upon the Law Commission of India in Report No-235 (Conversion and reconversion to another religion), which suggested a need to frame strict laws against conversions by use of force, fraud, allurement, charity or by any other means and such persons must be dealt with strict penal provisions and religious identity and sanctity of indigenous people must be protected.
He also referred to two significant Supreme Court's judgements in support of his contentions.
On January 17, 1977, the Supreme Court in Rev Stainislaus Case had held that State can prohibit deceitful religious conversion by use of force or allurement or fraudulent means.
On May 10, 1995, in Sarla Mudgal Case, the Supreme Court had directed the Centre to ascertain the feasibility of enacting Anti Conversion Law.
"However, the Centre did nothing. Due to appeasement politics, Executive has not taken steps to control deceitful religious conversion. Therefore, the Court is the only hope," he has said.
It is now for the Centre to shed its inhibitions and take a clear cut and firm stand on the subject as the Supreme Court asked the Union government's Law and Justice and Home Ministries to respond to his contentions.