PIL in Supreme Court seeking directions against black magic, superstition and religious conversion by intimidation and other similar means

Read Time: 07 minutes

A Public Interest Litigation has been moved before the Supreme Court, seeking appropriate writ or direction to the Centre and the States to control black magic, superstition and religious conversion by intimidating, threatening, deceivingly luring through gifts and monetary benefits.

In the matter of Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay v. Union of India, petitioner has approached the Top Court contending that “Religious conversion by carrot and stick and by hook or crook not only offends Articles 14, 21, 25, but also against the principles of secularism, which is integral part of basic structure of Constitution.”

Cause of Action, as per the petition, accrued on 10-05-1995, when Court directed to find out the feasibility of enacting Anti-Conversion Law but Centre did nothing to stop deceitful religious conversions. Reference in this respect is made to the Sarla Mudgal Case, (1995) 3 SCC6 635.

Reliance is further placed on Constitutional Commitments and Fundamental entitlements under Article 25, 46, 51A and the 1981 Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and Discrimination based on Religion or Belief, which expressly states, “No one shall be subject to coercion which would impair his freedom to have a religion or belief of his choice.”

Several unethical predatory conversion strategies are commonly used. One method is material enticement in which humanitarian aid or economic, educational, medical or social assistance is offered on the condition that the person converts. Another is the denigration of the person's religion to make a new religion appear superior. A third unethical, a predatory method is the promotion of ‘bigotry’ i.e. knowingly and intentionally promoting religious hatred & violence. Predatory proselytization tears apart the fabric of the communities where it occurs and has led to the annihilation of cultures”, the petition further states.

Attention has been drawn to the vulnerability of Tribal Belts and other regions with lower literacy rate; This social backwardness opens opportunities for missionaries to work among deprived classes for their socio-economic cultural and educational development and through that spread the message of the gospel which eventually results in conversion. A study was conducted in the tribal areas of Bastar, Bilaspur, Jagadalpur, Raipur and Sihora in Madhya Pradesh and Raigada, Phulbani and Khariar in Orissa. In addition to the Catholic and protestant Churches, there are more than twenty evangelical mission groups active in the tribal-dominated Bastar district to convert the tribals.”

Prayer sought;

  1. Direct the Centre and States to take appropriate steps to control black magic, superstition and religious conversion by intimidating, threatening, deceivingly luring through gifts and monetary benefits.
  2. Direct the Centre to ascertain the feasibility of appointing a Committee to enact a Conversion of Religion Act to check the abuse of religion in spirit of the direction in Sarla Mudgal Case.  
  3. Alternately, direct the Law Commission of India to prepare a Report on Black Magic, Superstition and Religious Conversion within three months in spirit of the Judgment in Sarla Mudgal Case.
  4. Alternatively, being custodian of the Constitution and protector of fundamental rights, the Court may use its plenary constitutional power to pass direction to stop conversion by carrot and the stick.
  5. Pass such other direction(s) as this Hon’ble Court deems fit in facts and circumstances of the case and allow the cost to petitioner.

Case Title: Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay v. Union of India