Purpose Behind Charity Cannot Be Religious Conversion, Says Supreme Court

"If you believe that particular persons should be helped, help them but it can't be for conversion. Allurement is very dangerous," a bench of the top court said.

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday, December 5, said charity by religious groups is welcome but the intention of such acts cannot be religious conversion.

A division bench of Justice M.R. Shah and Justice C.T. Ravikumar refused to entertain interventions that sought the dismissal of the instant petition by BJP leader Ashwini Upadhyay, who moved the court against alleged fraudulent religious conversions. The bench asserted that the issue at hand was “very serious” and said conversion by allurement, by offering food grains and medicines, was wrong.

“If you believe that particular persons should be helped, help them but it can’t be for conversion. Allurement is very dangerous. It is a very serious issue and is against the basic structure of our constitution. Everyone who stays in India will have to act as per the culture of India,” the bench said, according to LiveLaw.

The court further said, as per Indian Express, “The purpose of charity should not be conversion; every charity or good work is welcome, but what is required to be considered is the intention.”

Petitioner Upadhyay sought directions from the court to the Union and state governments to take stringent steps to control alleged fraudulent religious conversion by “intimidation, threatening, deceivingly luring through gifts and monetary benefits”.

At this juncture, the Union government, through solicitor general Tushar Mehta, told the court that the government was in the process of gathering data from states on alleged forcible religious conversions and the steps being taken to curb such activities. Mehta sought a week’s time to present the information to the court. The court told parties involved in the matter to mention it before the bench comprising the Chief Justice of India while scheduling the next hearing on December 12.

The government’s lawyer told the court that several states had already put in place stringent laws, referring to anti-conversion laws enacted in the BJP-ruled states, to stop alleged forcible conversions. He said “neutral committees” formed based on such laws determine whether religious conversions were “in lieu of grains, medicines or whether it is a real religious change of heart”.

Mehta particularly referred to Gujarat’s anti-conversion law and informed the court that particular provisions of the state law were stayed by the Gujarat high court. He said a special leave petition had already been filed in the matter.

Those who countered Upadhyay’s petition and wanted it to be rejected on the grounds of maintainability pointed out to the court that another bench of the apex court had already junked his earlier petition on the same issue. Sanjay Hegde appeared for the Chattisgarh Christian Forum, which intervened in the matter. Advocate C.U. Singh appeared for a Kerala rationalist group, which also intervened in the matter, seeking rejection of Upadhyay’s petition.

“This is the fourth identical plea by Upadhyay. SG need not support the petitioner. This is a plea which is heavily exaggerated. No material has been shown that there’s an alarming situation. Similar petitions were withdrawn in the past without the liberty to approach again,” lawyer Singh said for the Kerala rationalist group, according to LiveLaw.

To this, solicitor general Mehta said, “Any rationalist should support the petition.”

The court, for its part, said, “We are at the final disposal stage. We will not enter into the question of maintainability.”