THE Supreme Court Friday dismissed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by BJP leader Ashwini Upadhyay seeking directions to the Central and state governments to control black magic, superstition and religious conversion by intimidation, threats and deception.
“What type of petition is this? We will impose a heavy cost”, said Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman.
The bench which also had Justices BR Gavai and Hrishikesh Roy added it was a publicity interest litigation and that too a very harmful kind.
“I see no reason why a person of the age 18 years can’t choose his religion. There is a reason why the word “propagate” is there in the Constitution”, said Justice Nariman. He cited the decision of a nine-judge bench in the privacy case.
Justice Nariman also said if left up to him, the Supreme Court’s decision in Rev. Stainislaus vs State Of Madhya Pradesh (1977) was wrong and the word “propagate” was there in the Constitution for a reason.
In Stainislaus’ case, a Constitution bench held that the right to propagate did not include the right to convert under Article 25 of the Constitution.
Sensing the mood of the bench, senior advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan sought the permission of the court to enable him to make a representation to the Law Commission of India. The court, however, declined the request.
The PIL also sought a direction to the Centre to ascertain the feasibility of appointing a committee to enact a law to check the abuse of religion.
In the alternative, it urged the court to direct the Law Commission of India to prepare a report on black magic, superstition and religious conversion within three months in light of the Supreme Court’s decision in the Sarla Mudgal case.
Advocate Ashwini Upadhyay, the petitioner, who is also a BJP leader said religious conversion by “carrot and stick” and “by hook or crook” not only offends Articles 14 (right to equality), 21 (right to life and personal liberty), 25 (freedom of thought, conscience and religion), but also the principles of secularism, which is an integral part of the basic structure of Constitution.
Upadhyay alleged that the Centre and states have failed to control “the menace of black magic, superstition and deceitful religious conversion”, though it was their duty under Article 51A(fundamental duties).
The petition made the claim that it was being filed for the benefit of the poor, economically weak and socially downtrodden sections of the society, particularly scheduled castes and scheduled tribes.
“They are incapable of approaching this Hon’ble Court themselves; hence, petitioner is filing this PIL to secure their right to life liberty and dignity, guaranteed under Articles 14 and 21 and right to freely profess the religion, guaranteed under Article 25 of the Constitution”, the petition said.
It added that injury caused to the public was large because “there is not even one district in the country which is free of black magic, superstition and religious conversion by the carrot and the stick.”
The plea claimed that evidence of deceitful religious conversion could be found on social media, primarily on YouTube and Facebook.
“The foreign-funded individuals and NGOs are provided with a road map and a monthly target about the number of religious conversions that shall be carried out”, the PIL alleged.