The Supreme Court on Monday described forced religious conversions as a “serious issue” and asked the Centre to make its stand clear on the matter by November 22, reported Live Law.

A bench of Justices MR Shah and Hima Kohli said that if the allegations of forced religious conversions are found to be true, they can adversely affect the security of the country as well as the freedom of religion and conscience of the citizens.

The court observed that there may be a freedom of religion but the same does not apply to forced conversions.

“What steps are taken by the Union, otherwise it is very difficult... Make your stand very clear, what action you propose to take,” the judges said. “Conversion is legal under the Constitution, but not forcible conversion.”

To this, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said that there are state legislations on the matter, especially in Madhya Pradesh and Odisha. The validity of these state Acts has been upheld by the Supreme Court, he added.

The court made the statements while hearing a petition filed by advocate and Bharatiya Janata Party leader Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay asking the Union and state governments to take steps to prevent black magic, superstition and forceful religious conversions.

The petition said that the victims of these practices are often socially and economically underprivileged, particularly belonging to the Scheduled Castes and Tribes.

It added, this not only offends Articles 14 (equality before law), 21 (protection of life and personal liberty), 25 (freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion) of the Constitution but is also against the principles of secularism, which is an integral part of the basic structure of Constitution.