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Social media isn't data; Delhi HC on PIL on forced religious conversion

Sonal Bhargava | Edited By Prabhat Bandhulya

While dealing with a plea against forced religious conversions, the Delhi HC observed that every person has a right to choose and profess any religion of choice, saying it's a Constitutional right under law. "If someone is compelled to convert, that's a different issue," a bench of Justices Sanjeev Sachdeva and Tushar Rao Gedela said, "but to convert is a person's prerogative." The Bench was hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by BJP leader and lawyer Ashwini Upadhyay, in which she asked the Supreme Court to order the Centre and the Delhi government to prohibit religious conversion through intimidation, threats, deception, or "by using black magic and superstition." The petitioner was questioned by the Bench during the hearing regarding the basis of his plea. When the Bench inquired for data on the petitioner's claims of widespread conversion, he replied he had it from social media platforms. The court responded as follows: "Social media isn't the same as data. It has the ability to be transformed. Things that were done 20 years ago are depicted as if they were done yesterday." Upadhyay argued in the PIL that Article 14 guarantees equality before the law and equal protection under the law. Upadhyay argues in his petition that coercive conversions based on threats, fraud, or the use of "black magic" and "superstition" not only violate the Constitution, but also go against the principle of secularism. He claimed that despite the fact that it is their job under Article 51A of the Constitution, both the Central and Delhi governments have failed to manage the threat of black magic superstition and deceptive religious conversion. The Bench refused to issue a notice, claiming that there was no solid evidence on record to support charges of forced conversions.

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