The Supreme Court on Monday directed the parties challenging anti-conversion laws of various States, to file a single common transfer petition seeking the transfer of similar petitions pending before various High Courts to the apex court [In Re: The Issue of Religious Conversion]
A bench of Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud and Justices PS Narasimha and JB Pardiwala passed the order after noting that there are at least five such pleas before the Allahabad High Court, seven before the Madhya Pradesh High Court, two each before the Gujarat and Jharkhand High Courts, three before the Himachal Pradesh, and one each before Karnataka and Uttarakhand High Courts.
“In view of pendency of matters before diverse High Courts, a transfer petition will be filed before this court for tagging and transferring of all cases before this court. List the matters after 2 weeks,” the Court said.
The Court was hearing petitions filed by Citizens for Justice and Peace and Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind challenging the laws against religious conversions in different States.
The Court was also hearing appeals filed by the Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat governments challenging interim orders passed by the respective High Courts in similar matters.
The Supreme Court Monday said that in case a transfer plea is filed in two weeks, it will be listed along with other matters.
Pertinently, the Court also called for the deletion of certain offending statements made against religious minorities in one of the petitions filed by BJP leader and advocate, Ashwini Upadhyay.
The plea by Upadhyay against ‘forceful religious conversions’ was earlier being heard by a bench led by Justice MR Shah before it was shifted to the CJI-led bench.
During the last hearing, the bench led by Justice Shah, at the request of Senior Counsel Sanjay Hegde, had changed the cause-title of the case to In Re: Issue of Religious Conversions.
During the hearing today, Senior Counsel Dushyant Dave took objection to certain statements made in that petition by Upadhyay against minority communities.
“They have cast aspersions on Muslims and Christians as rapists and murderers. Such petitions are being entertained in Supreme Court and this sends a horrible message,” Dave said.
Senior Advocate Arvind Datar, appearing for Upadhyay, said that he would not be pressing those submissions.
“We had said, we will not press those submissions,” Datar said.
“Mr. Datar please take whatever steps but you can formally delete those paragraphs,” CJI Chandrachud said.
“The plea by Mr Upadhyay is based on WhatsApp forward and YouTube videos,” Senior Counsel CU Singh alleged.
Solicitor General (SG) Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Madhya Pradesh government, said,
“Mr Dave is a potential intervenor. Let the party speak.”
The SG also called for the segregation of Madhya Pradesh government’s appeal.
“Please segregate the SLP filed by MP Govt. Next, the plea by Centre for Justice and Peace in Gujarat matter… we have serious objections on the locus of CJP and serious objections on merits of the party,” the SG said.
The Court said that it will hear all SLPs and posted the matter for consideration next on January 30.