The Delhi High Court has today, dismissed a plea moved by the Bharatiya Janata Party leader and lawyer Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, who sought for directions to control religious conversion through inducement or intimidation.
The division bench comprising of Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice Hari Shankar was hearing a PIL filed by Upadhyay, through Senior Advocate Vikas Singh, who argued that while every individual had the freedom to profess any religion of his/her choice without discrimination, conversion of socially and economically downtrodden people was rampant.
However, the bench asserted that ‘It’s one’s personal choice to follow whatever religion they want. You’re not even the aggrieved party in this matter, why should we issue a notice in this PIL?’
For this, the counsel for the petitioner highlighted the induced religious conversions as a violation of the fundamental rights of an individual, and further sough for implementation of the 235th Law Commission Report on Conversions.
Citing India as a victim of religious conversions for many centuries, the petitioner submits that it is the duty of the State to take appropriate steps to stop religious conversion of socially economically downtrodden men, women, and children, particularly of the SC-ST community. It also alleged that foreign-funded NGOs and individuals are given monthly targets with respect to religious conversions. Moreover, it is argued, that religious conversions are also being carried out through social media websites such as YouTube and Facebook.
“If no action will be taken by the Government, Hindus will become a minority in India,’ the petition submits.
It is submitted that the practice of religious conversions not only violates one’s fundamental right to preach and practice one’s own religion, it also goes against the duties enshrined under Article 51A of the Constitution.
The court observed that the Law Commission in its report had made it clear that the permission of District Magistrate cannot be sought before conversion as practicing a particular religion is one’s personal choice. The bench further said that the right to convert is a matter of personal choice and if someone is threatening a person for conversion, it is a separate offense in the Indian Penal Code.
“What are you looking to regulate? We can’t understand your prayer,” the court stated and dismissed the plea while giving liberty to the Petitioner to withdraw his petition.
The petition was subsequently withdrawn by Upadhyay.