The Supreme Court on Friday observed that a person over 18 years may freely choose a religion of their choice, reported Live Law. The court made the remarks while refusing to hear a petition seeking directions to ban black magic, superstition and religious conversions through intimidation or gifts.
“I do not see a reason as to why any person above 18 years cannot choose his religion,” Justice RF Nariman said in court. “There is a reason why the word ‘propagate’ is there in the Constitution.” The bench also comprised of Justices BR Gavai and Hrishikesh Roy.
The court also berated the lawyer of the petitioner, Bharatiya Janata Party leader Ashwini Upadhyay, reported The New Indian Express. “What kind of writ petition is this under Article 32?” the court asked. “We will impose a heavy cost on you. You argue on your own risk.” It also said that the plea was like a “publicity interest litigation”.
After the court’s remarks, the petitioner’s counsel advocate Gopal Sankaranarayana sought permission to withdraw the plea and make representation to the Centre and the law commission, according to PTI. However, the court refused to grant permission.
The plea also sought directions to establish the feasibility of appointing a committee to implement a Conversion of Religion Act to curb the “abuse of religion”. “Religious conversion by ‘carrot and stick’ and by ‘hook or crook’ 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] but is also against the principles of secularism, which is an integral part of the Constitution,” the petition stated.
The plea further said that the central government and states have failed to control the “menace of black magic, superstition and deceitful religious conversion” despite them being under the ambit of Article 51A [fundamental duties]. The plea also alleged that the Centre has not taken any concrete step against these problems.