Forced conversions may ultimately affect national security, freedom of religion, Supreme Court tells Centre

Source: The post is based on the article “Forced conversions may ultimately affect national security, freedom of religion, Supreme Court tells Centre” published in The Hindu on 15th November 2022

What is the News?

The Supreme Court has observed that forced conversion is a “very serious issue” that affects the security of the nation and the freedom of religion and conscience of citizens.

What is the case about?

A petition has been filed in the Supreme Court seeking directions to the Centre and states to take stringent steps to check forced conversions.

The petitioner has said that there should be a special law against forced conversions or the Act should be incorporated as an offense in the Indian Penal Code.

What did the Supreme Court say about this petition?

The court ordered the Centre to file an affidavit detailing what actions it proposed to take to curb forced conversions. It said such conversions were reported to be found more in poor and tribal areas.

Does the Right to propagate religion under Article 25 includes the right to forcible conversion?

The Solicitor General representing the Centre said that the word “propagate” had come up for consideration in the Constituent Assembly debates. It was decided that the term did not mean forcible conversions.

He also referred to the Supreme Court’s 1997 judgment by a Constitution Bench in Rev. Stainislaus vs State of Madhya Pradesh which had held that the word “propagate” in Article 25 did not give the right to convert another person to one’s own religion but to transmit or spread one’s religion by an exposition of its tenets.

– The court in this judgment also held that there was “no fundamental right to convert another person to one’s own religion”.

The court had also recently dealt with the Acts passed by Madhya Pradesh and Orissa against forcible conversion and had held that “freedom of conscience of every person includes freedom not to be allowed to change his conscience and convert”.

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