Ahmedabad, April 19: A 35-year-old auto rickshaw driver in Gujarat, who was not given permission by the state to change his religion and become an atheist, has now moved the high court. The man, identified as Rajveer Upadhyay, is originally a Hindu, but wants to follow atheism as his religion. For this, he has appealed the court to declare him an atheist. An atheist is a person who doesn’t believe that God or forms of gods exist. Following his plea, the Gujarat high court on Thursday, questioned the state government in connection with the matter.
According to a report by TOI, Upadhyay moved HC in July 2018 after the Ahmedabad district collector declined his request to change his religion from Hinduism to atheism under the anti-conversion laws. Atheist Man Wants to be Called 'RV155677820', Rajkot Court Rejects his Plea.
The man stated that he was born a Hindu in a Garoda Brahmin family (scheduled caste) and after being a victim of caste discrimination all his life, he finally decided to give up on Hinduism. The district collector on May 16, 2017, after deliberating over it for over two years, refused him permission for such conversion holding that under the state’s anti-conversion law. “Any citizen can change his religion from one religion to other religion, but there is no provision to change the religion as secular (Atheist)”, the official was quoted in the report.
In response to Upadhyay’s petition, an HC bench of acting Chief Justice A S Dave and Justice Biren Vaishnav issued notice to the state government and Ahmedabad district collector. The man has also requested the HC to direct the state government to make amendments to its Freedom of Religion Act that makes it mandatory for a citizen to obtain permission from district collector if he/she wants to change his or her religion.
Upadhyay submitted that the state 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.
The Gujarat government in 2003 had brought a legislation that mandated permission from state authorities as precondition for any citizen to convert from one religion to the other. The HC has also asked the legal services authority to assist the petitioner to prosecute the case.