NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Monday held critically the conduct of Delhi BJP leader Ashwini Upadhyay in filing and withdrawing different petitions before the different benches of the Supreme Court and Delhi High Court on the same subject of religious conversions.
A bench comprising Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud, Justice PS Narasimha and Justice JB Pardiwala was hearing a PIL petition filed by Upadhyay in 2022 seeking steps againt forceful and deceitful religious conversions.
“Cannot keep on withdrawing and filing new petitions”: CJI
During the hearing, the bench was told by Senior Advocate P Wilson, appearing for the State of Tamil Nadu, that the petitioner had in 2021 withdrawn a similar petition from the top court, after a bench led by Justice Rohinton F Nariman refused to entertain it. He has filed and withdrawn similar petitions in Delhi High Court as well, the senior counsel pointed out.
After referring to the proceedings cited by Wilson, CJI Chandrachud told Upadhyay’s counsel Senior Advocate Gaurav Bhatia : “It seems that PIL petitioner does not think he is bound by rules of pleading….You cannot keep on withdrawing and filing new petitions.”
“Is it correct that you withdraw the petition on April 9, 2021 before the bench of Justice Nariman?”, CJI asked Bhatia. The CJI added that the objection raised on maintainability of th PIL will be considered at an appropriate time.
“Distasteful and shocking” statements by petitioner on minorities: Intervenor
Senior Advocate Dushyant Dave, appearing for an intervenor, highlighted that “distasteful and shocking” statements have been made by petitioner “casting aspersions on Christians and Muslims. Senior advocate Arvind P Datar, who also appeared for Upadhyay, said he had assured last time not to press such statements. The CJI asked Datar to make a formal application and delete those paragraphs.
As regards the petitions challenging anti-conversion laws of States, Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for one of the petitioners, informed the bench to file a petition to transfer to the Supreme Court the petitions pending in various High Courts challenging these laws.
The batch of petitions will be listed after two weeks. Senior Advocates CU Singh, Sanjay Hegde, Indira Jaising, Vrinda Grover etc., appeared for various petitions.
Petitioner was earlier asked to withdraw scurrilous allegations against minorities
Attorney General for India R Venkataramani, whose assistance was sought by Justice Shah’s bench last week in the religious conversion matter, suggested that it is appropriate that the High Courts hear the matter.
On January 9, the bench led by Justice MR Shah had changed the causetitle of the PIL filed by BJP leader Ashwini Upadhyay(WP(c) No.63/2022) as “In Re: The issue of religious conversion.” Observing that the matter was “very serious,” the Bench had sought assistance of Attorney General R Venkataramani.
Several Christian and Muslim organisations have filed intervention applications in the matter taking exception to certain statements made by the petitioner against the minorities. In the hearing on December 12, Justice S Ravindra Bhat, sharing the bench with Justice M R Shah had asked the petitioner’s senior counsel Arvind Datar to withdraw the scurrilous allegations against other religions.