The Centre on Monday told the Supreme Court that the right to freedom of religion guaranteed by the Constitution did not include-the right to convert, and it was necessary to bring in laws seeking to control such practices.
“It is submitted that public order is a state subject and in pursuance to the same various states over the course of the years passed enactments seeking to curb the practices highlighted in the present petition,” the Centre said.
According to the affidavit filed by the ministry of home affairs, nine states — Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Haryana and Uttarakhand — have anti-conversion laws in place.
“… undoubtedly the right to freedom to religion, and more importantly, the right to consciousness of all citizens of the country is an extremely cherished and valuable right which ought to be protected by the executive and the legislature,” the Centre said.
Citing a five-judge constitution bench ruling of the Supreme Court in the Rev Stanslaus vs State of Andhra Pradesh in 1997, the Centre submitted: “The right to freedom of religion does not include a fundamental right to convert other people to a particular religion. The said right certainly does not include the right to convert an individual through fraud, deception, coercion, allurement or other such means. The meaning and purport of the word ‘propagate’ falling under Article 25 of the Constitution was discussed and debated in great detail in the constituent assembly and the inclusion of the said word was passed by the constituent assembly only after the clarification that the Fundamental Right under Article 25 would not include the right to convert.”
The Centre’s affidavit was in response to a plea by advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay seeking an NIA probe into the alleged largescale religious conversions.