NEW DELHI: The Centre told the Supreme Court that the right to freedom of religion does not include a fundamental right to convert people.
Its response came on a plea against fraudulent religious conversion and religious conversion by intimidation, threatening, and deceivingly luring through gifts and monetary benefits, as it offends Articles 14, 21, and 25.
It filed an affidavit vowing to take serious steps against the forced religious conversions. It said legislation against forced religious conversion is necessary to protect the vulnerable sections of the society.
The Central government said the petitioner has highlighted a large number of instances carried out in an organised, systematic and sophisticated manner of conversion of vulnerable citizens in the country through fraud, deception, coercion, allurement or other such means.
It said the apex court has held that the word 'propagate' does not envisage the right to convert a person rather is in the nature of the positive right to spread once religion by exposition of its tenets.
The Centre said it is cognizant of the gravity and the seriousness of the issue raised in the present writ petition and enactments are necessary for protecting cherished rights of vulnerable sections of the society including women and economically and socially backward classes.
Nine state governments have already have legislations in place on the present subject: Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, and Haryana.
On November 14, the Supreme Court said forced religious conversion is a "very serious issue", and may affect the security of the nation and asked the Centre to make its stand clear on what steps can be taken to curb forced conversions.
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