Allahabad High Court rejects bail plea in alleged conversion case; says Article 25 does not provide right to convert religion

In a controversial interpretation of Article 25 of the Constitution, the single judge bench of Rohit Ranjan Agarwal said if this practice is not stopped, the “majority population of this country would be in minority one day”


On July 1, the single judge bench of Rohit Ranjan Agarwal at the Allahabad High Court rejected the bail plea of one Kailash, who is booked under Uttar Pradesh’s stringent anti-conversion law (The Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Act, 2021) and accused of ‘illegally’ converting villagers in Uttar Pradesh’s Hamirpur to Christianity. While rejecting the bail application, the court said “It has come into notice of this Court in several cases that unlawful activity of conversion of people of SC/ST castes and other castes including economically poor persons into Christianity is being done at rampant pace throughout the State of Uttar Pradesh. This Court, prima facie, finds that the applicant is not entitled for bail.” Pertinently, as per the FIR, the accused has been booked under Section 365 of the IPC (Kidnapping or abducting with intent secretly and wrongfully to confine person) and Section 3/5(1) of the U.P. Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Act, 2021 (punishment for illegal conversion).

Significantly, in 1977, in a significant ruling –Rev. Stainislaus v. State of Madhya Pradesh [(1977) 1 S.C.C. 677)] – a five-judge bench of the Supreme Court made a distinction between propagation and conversion, and ruled that the former is a fundamental right while the latter is not an absolute right.

As per the complainant (“informant”) Rampali Prajapati, Kailash had taken away her mentally ill brother from Hamirpur to Delhi for attending the social gathering and ceremony for the “well-being”, and promised to treat her brother’s illness while assuring his return to the village in a week. As per the FIR registered at Maudaha Police Station in Hamirpur district (No.201 of 2023), when the informant asked about the whereabouts of her brother as he did not return after a week, no satisfactory response was provided by the accused. The FIR also mentions that many persons from the same village were taken to such gatherings and were converted to Christianity.

Kailash’s lawyer Saket Jaiswal rejected the charges and argued that Ramphal, brother of the complainant, was not converted to Christianity and he is not Christian to date. He further said that Ramphal had merely attended the gathering of Christian faith along with several other persons and the statements of various persons recorded by police cannot be taken into consideration at this stage. Jaiswal also brought to the notice of the court that Sonu Paster, who was holding such gathering, has already been enlarged on bail.

In response, the prosecution relied on the “statements of the witnesses” to contend that Kailash had been taking away people from his village for the purpose of converting them to Christianity, and for this act he was being paid huge money.

The problematic interpretation of Article 25 by the Allahabad High Court

After hearing both the parties, Justice Agarwal in his concluding remarks noted that “Article 25 of the Constitution of India provides for Freedom of conscience and free profession, practice, and propagation of religion, but it does not provide for conversion from one faith to another faith.”

The relevant part of the Article 25 of the Indian Constitution reads, “Subject to public order, morality and health and to the other provisions of this Part, all persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practice and propagate religion. (2) Nothing in this article shall affect the operation of any existing law or prevent the State from making any law— (a) regulating or restricting any economic, financial, political or other secular activity which may be associated with religious practice…”.

On the interpretation of “Propagation” as mentioned in Article 25, the verdict notes that the said word “…means to promote, but it does not mean to convert any person from his religion to another religion.” Notably, it does not cite any judicial precedent or case law at any place in its order for supporting its interpretation or judicial reasoning.


The judgement notes that “serious allegations” have been raised against the accused and the statements recorded by investigating officer reveal that “Kailash had been taking away people to attend the religious congregation held at New Delhi, where they are being converted into Christianity.” Furthermore, the court said the brother of the informant never returned back to the village. Justice Agarwal wrote in its concluding remarks that “If this process is allowed to be carried out, the majority population of this country would be in minority one day, and such religious congregation should be immediately stopped where the conversion is taking place and changing religion of citizen of India.”

The judgement curiously maintains that Article 25 of the Indian Constitution does not allow religious conversion, but “only provides freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion.” Such judicial interpretation devoid of any reliance on judicial precedent is dangerous and deleterious for the fundamental rights of the citizens as it ends up upending the very purpose of Part III of the Indian Constitution which guarantees inviolable basic rights to its citizenry, including right to practice and propagate religion as contained in Article 25. Even the draconian anti-conversion laws enacted by several states across India, which severely restricts religious and personal freedom, including freedom to convert one’s religion, does not unqualifiedly ban the conversion as this judgement seems to do. Most importantly, while these anti-conversion laws have been challenged as unconstitutional and violative of Article 25, among others, the present judgement says that Article 25 itself proscribe religious conversion!

In the landmark case of Rev. Stainislaus v. State of Madhya Pradesh [(1977) 1 S.C.C. 677)], the five-judge bench of the Supreme Court made a distinction between propagation and conversion, and ruled that the former is a fundamental right while the latter is not an absolute right. The judgement said that the freedom to propagate religion does not include the right to convert another person to one’s own religion but qualified that such a conversion would be illegal only if it is done by force, fraud, or allurement.

The Allahabad High Court judgement can be read here:


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