The Supreme Court on Monday warned Bharatiya Janata Party leader Ashwini Upadhyay against filing multiple petitions before different benches of the Supreme Court and the Delhi High Court on “forced religious conversions”, Live Law reported.

“It seems that public interest litigator petitioners think they are not bound by rules of pleadings…,” the court said. “You cannot keep on withdrawing and filing new petitions.”

The observation was made by a bench comprising Chief Justice DY Chandrachud and Justices PS Narasimha and JB Pardiwala. The bench was hearing a plea filed by Upadhyay, seeking steps against forceful and deceitful religious conversions.

Upadhyay’s plea was previously being heard by a bench led by Justice MR Shah before it was shifted to a bench led by the chief justice, according to Bar and Bench.

During the hearing on Monday, advocate P Wilson, appearing on behalf of Tamil Nadu, apprised the court that Upadhyay has withdrawn a similar petition from the Supreme Court in 2021 after it was refused to be accepted, reported Live Law.

“He [Upadhyay] has filed and withdrawn a similar petition in the Delhi High Court as well,” Wilson told the court.

Advocate Dushyant Dave pointed out that certain statements in Upadhyay’s petition were against minority communities, according to Bar and Bench.

“They have cast aspersions on Muslims and Christians as rapists and murderers,” Dave told the bench. “Such petitions are being entertained in Supreme Court and this sends a horrible message.”

But Advocate Arvind Datar, appearing on behalf of Upadhyay, said that he would not be pressing those submissions.

“Mr Datar, please make a formal application and delete those paragraphs,” Chief Justice Chandrachud then remarked.

The court will hear the case next on January 30.

Also read: Petitions dismissed thrice, the SC is finally hearing a BJP leader’s plea on ‘forced’ conversion

Upadhyay’s plea

In March 2020, Upadhyay had approached the Delhi High Court with a similar plea and asked the court to “take appropriate steps” to control “forced conversions”. The Delhi High Court refused to entertain the petition: “it is one’s personal choice to follow whatever religion” they want to, it noted. Upadhyay eventually withdrew his plea.

In March 2021, Upadhyay approached the Supreme Court alleging that instances of “forced conversions” were “reported every week throughout the country”, claiming that Christian groups were carrying out mass conversions. However, the Supreme Court said that the petition had been filed for “publicity” and warned that it would impose “heavy costs” if the matter was argued further.

The court also made oral observations about how a person above 18 years of age should have the freedom to choose their religion. Upadhyay withdrew this petition too.

In January 2022, Upadhyay filed a third petition in the Supreme Court – the one currently being heard. However, before this petition was taken up for hearing, Upadhyay filed a similar petition in the Delhi High Court six months later.

When the petition came up for hearing, the Delhi High Court refused to issue notice to the government and said that it seemed to be based entirely on information from WhatsApp, social media and the newspapers. He subsequently withdrew this petition in the Delhi High Court on November 21.