Stopping individuals from conducting any religious activities on their property through provisions of Code of Criminal Procedure that ban large gatherings is a direct violation of their fundamental rights, the Bombay High Court held on Friday, reported Live Law.

The Goa bench of the High Court comprising Justices Mahesh Sonak and Valmiki Menezes also quashed an order passed under section 144 (ban on large gatherings) of the Code of Criminal Procedure against a Christian couple accused of religious conversion.

The court was hearing a petition filed by Joan Mascarenhas E D’Souza seeking to quash the order issued on December 28 passed by the North Goa district magistrate banning her from conducting religious activities in her institutional building located on their property in Siolim village.

The magistrate had alleged that D’Souza and her husband were forcibly converting people to Christianity, reported Bar and Bench.

D’Souza, however, had claimed that she, along with her husband, were conducting religious activities for the last 23 years and had formed a group to preach and propagate their religion and belief in exercise of the their fundamental rights under Article 25 (freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion) and Article 26 (the right to form and maintain institutions for religious and charitable intents) of the Constitution.

In its order on Friday, the High Court agreed with the arguments of the petitioner and observed that no complaint has been filed against D’Souza that would amount to using force, coercion or deception to convert any members of the public to a particular religion. It said that the magistrate has also failed to show any single incident of forcible conversion.

The court said that the magistrate’s order was directly violated the petitioners’ fundamental rights under Article 19(1) (freedom of speech and expression), Article 25 and Article 26 of the Constitution “as it seeks to deny them both of their freedom of speech and expression and to their freedom of conscience and the right to freely profess, practice, propagate their religion or form religious institutions.”

It added: “The petitioner and her husband are within their rights to propagate their own religion and to profess it in any manner that they please though within the bounds of law, more so, when it is within their own private property.”