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Nothing wrong in missionaries spreading Christianity, TN govt to Supreme Court

By LawStreet News Network      02 May, 2023 10:24 PM      0 Comments
Nothing wrong in missionaries spreading Christianity, TN govt to Supreme Court

NEW DELHI: The Tamil Nadu government has told the Supreme Court there is nothing wrong in the acts of missionaries spreading Christianity as Article 25 of the Constitution guarantees every citizen the right to propagate his religion.

"The acts of missionaries spreading Christianity by itself cannot be seen as something against law. But if their act of spreading their religion is against public order, morality and health and to the other provisions of Part III of the Constitution it has to be viewed seriously," the M K Stalin government said.

In an affidavit to a PIL filed by advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, the DMK government contended there has been no incident of forceful conversion reported in the past many years in the state and the petitioner's allegations are related to some instances of Hindi belt areas.

"It is most respectfully submitted that the citizens are at liberty to choose the religion they want to follow," it asserted.

"The Constitution does not give a fundamental right to any person to tum another man into one's own religion. But it gives a right to any person to propagate his religion. Likewise, the Constitution does not prevent any person from getting converted to the religion of his choice. The citizens of the country should be allowed freely to choose their religion and it would not be appropriate for the Government to put spokes to their personal belief and privacy," it said.

Repeatedly citing Article 25, it said the Constitution protects the rights of all persons to enjoy the freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion.

"The state shall have the responsibilities to take measures against persons who deliberately and maliciously intend to outrage the religious feelings of any class by insulting their religion or religious beliefs," it pointed out.

"One of the rights guaranteed by the Indian Constitution is the right to Freedom of Religion. As a secular nation, every citizen of India has the right to freedom of religion i.e. right to follow any religion. As one can find so many religions being practiced in India, the constitution guarantees to every citizen the liberty to follow the religion of their choice. According to this fundamental right, every citizen has the opportunity to practice and spread his religion peacefully. The right to have faith in a particular religion can be traced under Article 21 of the Constitution and it is an inviolable right," it added.

The state government also opposed the plea for bringing out any anti conversion law, while terming the plea by Upadhyay as "religiously motivated petition".

"The anti-conversion laws are prone to misuse against minorities and there is no data on convictions under the various anti conversions laws of the States," it claimed.

The state government further pointed out the legislative history of anti conversion laws are more diverse. Many states have passed their own version of the anti conversion laws and some are still in existence. In 2002, the State of Tamil Nadu passed the Tamil Nadu Prohibition of Forcible Conversion of Religion Act, 2002 (Tamil Nadu Act 56 of 2002). However, the same was repealed by the Tamil Nadu Prohibition of Forcible Conversion of Religion (Repeal) Act, 2006 (Tamil Nadu Act 10 of 2006) due to popular opposition. In the year 2003, the State of Gujarat passed the Gujarat Freedom of Religion Act, 2003. In 2017 and 2018, Jharkhand and Uttarkhand States passed anti conversion laws, respectively. In 2021, the Karnataka State Legislative Assembly passed the Karnataka Protection of Right to freedom of religion bill.

With regard to Upadhyay's plea, it said the prayers sought by him do not only attack a specific community with intentions to divide the society through hate, fuelling religious intolerance in the country, bringing disharmony in the society.

"The Writ Petition has been drafted with the sole intention to defame a particular faith by making shocking allegations without providing any supporting data or document," it claimed.

With regard to use of various means like "intimidation, threat, deceivingly luring through gifts and monetary benefits" for conversions, the state government said the allegations are alleged to have been taken place only in certain tribal areas in Madhya Pradesh, Orissa and India's Hindi belt and, it does not apply to Tamil Nadu.

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