The Supreme Court on Monday asked Attorney General R Venkataramani for help in developing policies to prevent religious conversions through deception, fraud, force, or allurement, and warned states and interested parties not to politicise a serious legal issue.

“We want the attorney general, who admits to being primarily an amicus curiae, to assist the court in adjudication of this extremely important issue and recommend what remedial steps are required to be taken in this regard,” a bench of Justices MR Shah and CT Ravi kumar remarked.

The AG stated that he will prepare and file his remedial recommendations on the issues addressed in the petitions.

Senior advocate P Wilson, representing Tamil Nadu, went on a rant against advocate Ashwini Upadhyay, accusing him of abusing the legal process to advance the political ideology of his party, the BJP, and making a problem out of a non-issue. “There is no conversion taking place in Tamil Nadu,” he remarked, questioning the PIL’s viability.

The bench told him flatly that if the counsel wanted to bring politics into the courtroom, this was not the place. Tushar Mehta, the Solicitor General, stated that this is a national problem. “Do not seek to politicise the subject,” the bench instructed Wilson. It is a really serious problem. Political parties should be in charge of politics. We are dealing with a very legal problem here, and we will suggest that all counsel respect the sanctity of the court proceedings.”

The bench, however, granted senior lawyer Sanjay Hegde’s appeal and consented to rename the case.

It changed Upadhyay’s name to ‘In re: Issue of Religious Conversion’ and scheduled another hearing for February 7. The Union government has already informed the court in its affidavit that it is considering measures to combat the threat of conversion through force, allurement, and deception, while arguing that the right to freedom of religion does not confer the right to convert others from one religion to another.

The government said, “Right to freedom of religion does not include a fundamental right to convert other people to a particular religion. The said right certainly does not include the right to convert an individual through fraud, deception, coercion, allurement and such other means.”

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By Brijpal Singh

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