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Gujarat man barred from turning atheist, moves HC

April 19, 2019 06:44 AM


Gujarat man barred from turning atheist, moves HC


Why can’t the state grant a citizen the status of an atheist? The Gujarat high court on Thursday posed the question to the state government following a plea by a 35-year-old auto driver.

Rajveer Upadhyay moved the high court in July 2018 after the Ahmedabad district collector declined his request to change his religion from Hindu to atheist under the anti-conversion laws. After deliberating on the request for over two years, the district collector on May 16, 2017, refused him permission holding that under the state’s anti-conversion law, “any citizen can convert from one religion to another, but there is no provision to change the religion as secular (atheist)”.

On Upadhyay’s plea, the HC issued the notice to the state government and the Ahmedabad district collector.

Rajveer Upadhyay claims to have battled caste bias all his life

‘Guj conversion law flouts Constitution’

Gujarat auto driver Rajveer Upadhyay submitted to the high court that he was born a Hindu in a Garoda Brahmin family which falls under Scheduled Caste. He claimed to have battled caste discrimination throughout his life, which prompted him to decide on giving up his religion. Upadhyay requested the HC to direct the state government to make amendments to its Freedom of Religion Act, which makes it mandatory for a citizen to obtain permission from district collector if he/she wants to change his/her religion. In 2003, the Gujarat government brought in a legislation which mandated permission from the state authorities for any citizen to convert.

It was submitted that Articles 25 and 26 of the Constitution grant freedom to citizens to profess and propagate any religion or faith. The Gujarat government’s anti-conversion law is in violation of constitutional provisions if it restricts a citizen from relinquishing his faith and assuming the identity of a secular or an atheist, Upadhyay submitted. His advocate Harsh Shah placed before the HC the Tamil Nadu government’s decision to issue a certificate to one M A Sneha declaring that she was a person without religion.

After issuing notice to the state and the Ahmedabad district collector, the HC posted the matter for further hearing on July 9

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