Anti-conversion law: Do not limit law panel’s role in examining penal provision, Centre tells Supreme Court | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Anti-conversion law: Do not limit law panel’s role in examining penal provision, Centre tells Supreme Court

Jan 17, 2023 12:44 AM IST

The Supreme Court should refrain from delivering a judgment on the feasibility of a law to prohibit religious conversion through force or allurement until the Law Commission of India examines the issue, attorney general R Venkataramani said on Monday.

The Supreme Court should refrain from delivering a judgment on the feasibility of a law to prohibit religious conversion through force or allurement until the Law Commission of India examines the issue, attorney general R Venkataramani said on Monday.

The Supreme Court bench, which included justices PS Narasimha and JB Pardiwala, was considering a petition by advocate Ashwini Upadhyay to ask the Law Commission to examine the feasibility of a penal law to punish acts of forced conversion. (ANI)
The Supreme Court bench, which included justices PS Narasimha and JB Pardiwala, was considering a petition by advocate Ashwini Upadhyay to ask the Law Commission to examine the feasibility of a penal law to punish acts of forced conversion. (ANI)

“Once this court says something, there is nothing that the Law Commission can do. A consultation of the Law Commission is only proper as the first step,” Venkataramani told a bench headed by Chief Justice of India Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud.

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The bench, which included justices PS Narasimha and JB Pardiwala, was considering a petition by advocate Ashwini Upadhyay to ask the Law Commission to examine the feasibility of a penal law to punish acts of forced conversion.

While the bench was of the initial view that it may be suitable for the Law Commission to examine the issue following a guidance from the Supreme Court in the form of a judgment or some orders, Venkataramani disagreed.

According to the country’s top law officer, any word from the apex court will constrict the scope of examination by the commission and, therefore, the court should let it consider the issue of forced religious conversion at the first instance.

Senior advocate Arvind Datar, appearing for Upadhyay, supported Venkataramani, saying that all the parties before the court may be asked to submit their views before the Law Commission. The court, however, adjourned the matter, while asking Datar to ascertain that certain objectionable paragraphs from the 2022 plea against some religious minorities should be omitted. Datar said he has already made a statement during the previous hearings that the petitioner was not relying on the impugned statements and that he will have them deleted.

The bench also asked Upadhyay to clarify on the next date whether he had withdrawn a petition in 2021 that also raised the issue of forced conversion.

The court on Monday had taken up Upadhyay’s plea along with a batch of other petitions pertaining to legislations framed by various state governments to penalise religious conversion for marriages.

On these petitions, Venkataramani urged the Supreme Court to allow the high courts to examine the respective legislation dealing with the issue of religious conversions for marriages instead of letting the petitioners leapfrog the first forum of adjudication. He opposed transfer of cases from at least seven high courts to the Supreme Court to deal with a conspectus of issues arising out of state laws against religious conversions for marriages.

“I will strongly urge this court to allow the high courts to hear the cases. Why should the matter be leapfrogged here at the instance of petitioners? There are states legislation and they may have different provisions,” Venkataramani argued before the bench, citing cases pending before various high courts, including Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Karnataka and Haryana.

Venkataramani further pointed out that not only the Supreme Court will have the advantage of the judgments by high courts once the matters travel in appeal, but the parties will also end up losing their right to appeal if the Supreme Court were to directly hear the cases.

To this, the bench said it will hear all the parties before taking a call on whether the matter needs to be transferred to the top court or not. The petitions will now come up for hearing after two weeks.

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