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Moderate averments against some religions, SC to petitioner’s counsel in forced conversion case

The Supreme Court on Monday asked the lawyer of a petitioner, who has filed a plea against forceful conversions, to consider moderating averments made in the petition in connection with some religions.

Senior advocate Dushyant Dave, representing one of the parties, submitted before a bench of Justices M.R. Shah and S. Ravindra Bhat said there are some very serious and vexatious allegations in the petition filed by advocate Ashwini Upadhyay against certain religions and sought to be impleaded as a party in the case.

Counsel said the allegations have been made about followers of some religions that they were perpetuating rape and murder.

The bench asked senior advocate Arvind P. Datar, representing Upadhyay, to look into the issue. It orally told the lawyer: “You please consider what is this allegation… consider this and moderate this.”

Dave argued that these averments should not be on your lordships’ file and the court should ask them to withdraw it. The bench noted that Solicitor General Tushar Mehta was not available and adjourned the hearing to January 9.

On December 5, the Supreme Court had said the issue of forced religious conversion is a “very serious issue” and emphasised that charity is welcome, but the purpose of charity must not be conversion.

The top court allowed the Centre to file a detailed counter after obtaining necessary response from various state governments in connection with anti-conversion laws and other relevant information.

The Gujarat government, in its written response, said, “It is humbly submitted that that the Act of 2003 (Gujarat Freedom of Religion Act, 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 18 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 state government said the Gujarat High Court “stayed the operation of Section 5 of the Act of 2003, which is in fact an enabling provision for a person to get converted from one religion to another religion on his own volition”.

The state government said the high court failed to appreciate that by staying the operation of section 5 of the Act of 2003, the whole purpose of the Act effectively stands frustrated. It further added that Gujarat Freedom of Religion Act, 2021 was passed to strengthen the 2003 law.

The top court was hearing a petition filed by Upadhyay against fraudulent religious conversion and religious conversion by intimidation, threatening, deceivingly luring through gifts and monetary benefits, as it offends Articles 14, 21, and 25.

(The story has been published via a syndicated feed.)

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