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‘Cannot convert on the pretext of help’: SC slams NGOs for carrying out religious conversion asks Centre and States to file a detailed affidavit

The SC said that "good work" by charities is appreciated but they cannot convert individuals under the guise of helping them.

The Supreme Court Monday criticised missionaries and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) for carrying out forced religious conversion of individuals under the guise of helping them.

“The purpose of charity should not be conversion; every charity or good work is welcome, but what is required to be considered is the intention,” the court said as it rejected the plea challenging maintainability of the PIL filed by advocate Ashwini Upadhyay.

Upadhyay had filed a plea in the apex court seeking direction to the Centre and states to take stringent steps to control fraudulent religious conversion by ‘intimidation, threatening, deceivingly luring through gifts and monetary benefits.’

Reiterating that forced religious conversion is a very serious matter, the court also called it unconstitutional.

When a lawyer questioned the maintainability of the plea, the bench said, “Do not be so technical. We are here to find a solution. We are here for a cause. We are here to set things right. If the purpose of the charity is good then it is welcome but what is required to be considered is the intention.

“Do not take it as adversarial. It is a very serious issue. Ultimately it is against our Constitution. When everyone stays in India, they have to act per the culture of India,” the bench observed.

The bench of Justices MR Shah and CT Ravikumar asked the Centre and States to file a detailed affidavit on the issue of forceful conversions.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta appearing on behalf of the central government, meanwhile, told the court that it is collecting information from states on religious conversion through such means and sought time to furnish detailed information on the issue.

“We are gathering information from the states. Give us a week’s time,” Mehta said. He said statutory the regime will determine whether a person is converting due to some change in belief.

The Supreme Court will now take up the case on December 12.

SC terms forced religious conversion a ‘very serious’ issue, warns difficult situation may emerge if practice not stopped

It may be recalled that during the last hearing on November 14, the SC termed the practice of forced religious conversion a ‘very serious’ issue and directed the Central Government to step in and make sincere efforts to check the practice. The Court also warned saying that a very difficult situation might emerge if the practice of forced religious conversion is not stopped.

“It is a very serious issue that affects the security of the nation and freedom of religion and conscience. Therefore, it is better that Union of India may make their stand clear and file counter on what further steps can be taken to curb such forced conversion,” the bench led by Justices MR Shah and Hima Kohli said on November 14.

Taking serious notice of religious conversion by deceit, allurement, and intimidation, the bench requested the Government to undertake action against it and asked Solicitor General (SG) Tushar Mehta to list steps to limit the conversion practice happening through enticements.

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