Monday, September 26, 2022

India’s top court seeks details of ‘fraud’ conversions

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India’s top court has sought the federal government’s response on a plea seeking stricter action to curb fraudulent religious conversion allegedly by “intimidation, threatening” and “luring through gifts and monetary benefits.”

The Supreme Court of India on Sept. 23 asked the federal government and the federal ministries of home affairs, and law and justice, among others to file their responses before Nov 14.

The top court was hearing a petition filed by advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay. The petition wanted the court to direct the federal and provincial governments to take stringent steps to control fraudulent religious conversions, which he called “a nationwide problem.”

“The injury caused to the citizens is extremely large because there is not even one district which is free of religious conversion by 'hook and crook',” Upadhyay submitted.

The petitioner claimed that incidents of fraudulent conversions were reported every week throughout the country and involved various unlawful means including the use of black magic, superstitions and miracles, besides threats and allurements.

Upadhyay urged the court to issue a direction to the federal government and the Law Commission of India to draft a national law to restrain religious conversion.

He had in the past also approached the Supreme Court with a similar demand but was rebuked by a bench led by Justice Rohinton F. Nariman, who asked why a person above 18 years can’t choose his religion.

The apex court then upheld the inviolability of the right to privacy that is directly related to the life, dignity and liberty of the person while emphasizing that the choice of religion and marriage will continue to be left to the individual’s choice.

Christian leaders feel they’re being unnecessarily targeted in the name of religious conversions.

The apex court is also hearing a petition by a group of Christians on curbing attacks on members of the minority religion and their institutions including places of worship.

In a Sept. 1 ruling, the Supreme Court has directed eight states to provide information such as preliminary police reports, the status of investigations, arrests made and charges filed in the cases of attacks on Christians and their institutions.

The petition cited incidents from 22 states but details from eight states that reported more than 20 incidents were sought by the court.

The apex court also directed the petitioners to provide details of incidents mentioned in their petition to the office of the federal government’s Solicitor General Tushar Mehta within four weeks.

Christians make up 2.3 percent of the 1.3 billion people in India of which about 80 percent are Hindus.