Religious Conversion a Serious Issue, Shouldn't Be Given 'Political Colour', Says SC

A two-judge bench of Justice M.R. Shah and Justice C.T. Ravikumar accused the Tamil Nadu government of prima facie lending "political colour" to the "very serious" of forced religious conversion.

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday, January 9, accused the Tamil Nadu government of prima facie lending “political colour” to the “very serious” of forced religious conversion, The Hindu reported.

A two-judge bench of Justice M.R. Shah and Justice C.T. Ravikumar made the remark when Tamil Nadu government counsel, P. Wilson, called the petitioner in the case, Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, a “BJP spokesperson”, who is “facing a case of sedition”, and his case “politically motivated”.

Courtroom exchange

Wilson argued that religious conversion is a state subject under List 2 Entry 1 of the constitution. He asserted that there are no illegal religious conversions in Tamil Nadu as accused by the petitioner. A law on religious conversions of 2002 was subsequently repealed in Tamil Nadu, he informed the court.

“Leave this matter to the legislature. There is no threat of conversion in our state. This is a politically motivated litigation. He (Upadhyay) has made Tamil Nadu, the state government, a party,” Wilson said, according to The Hindu.

At this juncture, Justice Shah told Wilson not to give “political colour” to the issue. “Do not try to bring political colour. Prima facie today the state government wants to bring political colour. We are concerned with the people… You may have so many reasons to be agitated like this but do it outside. We are considering a particular issue and not concerned with the ‘A’, ‘B’, or ‘C’ state. If it (forcible or deceitful religious conversions) is happening in your state, it is bad. If it is not happening, then good. We are not targeting only one state.”

The court then went on to assert that the alleged antecedents of the petitioner, Upadhyay, made “no difference” to the issue at hand. “When a case is brought to the court, the court will decide… Restrict yourselves to the point under consideration,” Justice Shah said.

At this point, solicitor general Tushar Mehta said alleged illegal conversions were of “national interest”.

Seeking the aid of attorney general R. Venkataramani in the matter, Justice Shah told the former, “There is a difference between the freedom of religion and the freedom of conversion. Everybody can, but there are ways and not by allurement. What should be done? What corrective measures can be taken?”

The petitioner then rose up to tell the court that religious conversion was “an act of aggression”, and rejected the claims that his petition was not based on any data on conversion. He asserted that religious conversions were indeed happening in the country.

“I have books to show,” Upadhyay said, raising a pile of books in court, trying to underline that his petition was based on data.

At this stage, one of the lawyers in the courtroom said “scurrilous remarks” were being made in reference to minorities and drew the attention of the court to some select social media posts.

Then Justice Shah chimed in to say, “Don’t bother about allegations and counter-allegations. The law will take its own course.”

To this the lawyer in question responded by saying, “But the law is made on the basis of facts,” the lawyer said.

Upadhyay’s counsel, Arvind Datar, told the court that there was no specific provision in the Indian Penal Code on illegal conversions. “That is for the legislature to consider… whether to amend the IPC [Indian Penal Code] or not. But we have to consider the issue in the larger perspective and see what can be done in this situation,” Justice Shah said and posted the matter for hearing on February 7.