1977 AIR 908, 1977 SCR (2) 611, 1977 SCC (1) 677
The primary fact in issue was whether Article 25 (1) of the Indian Constitution, which empowers every Indian citizen to freely practice, profess and propagate one’s religion within the prescribed limits of the law, also includes the right to ‘convert’ any person to the former’s faith
The right to propagate one’s religion means a right to communicate a person’s belief to another person or to expose tenets of that faith and does not include the right to ‘convert’ any person to the former’s faith. Therefore, the right to convert is exempted and does not enjoy legal protection under the right to freedom of religion enshrined in the constitution.
The word ‘propagate’ has been used in the Article as meaning to transmit or spread from person to person or from place to place. The Article does not grant right to convert other person to one’s own religion but to transmit or spread one’s religion by an exposition of its tenets.
As to the applicability of Article 25, the Court highlighted that the freedom of religion enshrined in the Article is not guaranteed in respect of one religion only but covers all religions alike which can be properly enjoyed by a person if he exercises his right in a manner commensurate with the like freedom of persons following other religion. What is freedom for one is freedom for the other in equal measure and there can, therefore, be no such thing as a fundamental right to convert any person to one’s own religion.
The Court held that Article 25(1) provides freedom of conscience to every citizen, but purposely converting another person to one’s religion in the pretext of spreading the tenets of that religion, infringes the essence of ‘freedom to conscience’ guaranteed by the constitution.
Therefore, if a person wants to adopt any other religion, valid reasons must be produced for such conversion which shall be accompanied by free will.