Monday, October 2, 2023

Supreme Court says not all conversions can be said to be illegal

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The Supreme Court today refused to stay a recent order by the Madhya Pradesh High Court which had struck down the mandatory requirement under the Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act for making a declaration to the District Magistrate before converting one’s religion.

A bench comprising Justice MR Shah and Justice CT Ravikumar issued notice to the appeal filed by the government of Madhya Pradesh against the verdict of the High Court.

The bench said that not all conversions can be said to be illegal. The bench asked to issue notice on the SLP as well as interim relief, returnable on February 7. Dasti permitted.

During the hearing, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said that there is no prohibition against marriage or conversion. District Magistrate may only be intimated, that is all a stay would do.

The bench said that it cannot entertain this, and if the State has any counter that may be presented on next date of hearing.

The matter will be heard next on February 7. In an order of November 14, 2022, a bench of Justice Sujoy Paul and Justice Prakash Chandra Gupta of the MP High Court asked the State government not to take any coercive action against any person who contravenes Section 10 (declaration before conversion of religion) of the Act.

The order had stated that the Section 10 makes it obligatory for a citizen desiring conversion to give a declaration in this regard to the District Magistrate, which in the Court’s opinion ex-facie was unconstitutional in the teeth of aforesaid judgments of this Court.

It further said that till further orders, the respondent shall not prosecute adult citizens if they solemnize marriage on their own volition and shall not take coercive action for violation of Section 10 of Act of 21.

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