The Supreme Court on Friday said people are free to choose their own religion, even as it lashed out at a “very, very harmful kind” of “public interest” petition claiming there is mass religious conversion happening “by hook or by crook” across the country.
Instead, a Bench led by Justice Rohinton F. Nariman said people have a right under the Constitution to profess, practise and propagate religion.
“Why should a person above 18 years not choose his religion? What kind of a writ petition is this? We will impose heavy costs on you... Withdraw it or argue and risk the consequences,” Justice Nariman asked petitioner-advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay.
Justice Nariman reminded Mr. Upadhyay of the fundamental right under Article 25 of the Constitution to freely profess, practise and propagate religion, subject to public order, morality and health. “Why do you think there is the word ‘propagate’?’” Justice Nariman asked the petitioner.
Religious conversion is being done through a “carrot-and-stick” approach, Mr. Uapdhyay had claimed in his petition.
Justice Nariman said every person is the final judge of their own choice of religion or who their life partner should be. Courts cannot sit in judgment of a person’s choice of religion or life partner.
Religious faith is a part of the fundamental right to privacy.
Justice Nariman reminded Mr. Upadhyay of the Constitution Bench judgment which upheld inviolability of the right to privacy, equating it with the rights to life, of dignity and liberty.
Mr. Upadhyay’s petition was dismissed as withdrawn. His pleas to approach the Law Commission or the High Court with the plea was not expressly allowed by the Bench.
The petition alleged that the court should direct the Centre and the States to control black magic, superstition and religious conversion being done through threats, intimidation or bribes.
“There is not even one district which is free of black magic, superstition and religious conversion... Incidents are reported every week throughout the country where conversion is done by intimidating, threatening, luring through gifts and monetary benefits,” the petition had alleged.
Further, the petition said the Centre and States were obligated under Article 46 to protect the SC/ST community from social injustice and other forms of exploitation.