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Anti-conversion law in India

By Saurabh Gautam

I. INTRODUCTION

Four things are guaranteed to the Indian citizens as per the preamble of the Indian constitution: First, justice, which is social political and economic; Second, liberty of thoughts, belief, expression, worship and faith. Third is the equality of the status and also of opportunity and the fourth fraternity, which protects the integrity of the nation and dignity of individual and the unity.

The final guarantee of fraternity closely linked with brotherhood ensures friendship, mutual support and consonant concur within the citizen irrespective of all their class, religion, and caste. The corporeity of democracy is endangered when this idea of fraternity is shattered and is on the brink of dissolution.

Freedom of choice is an idea that is absolutely central to major a better life which is not a new one. The significance of the quality of life of the people of society in considering the accomplishment of religious rules, it is quite easy to perceive the consequence of freedom of choice to religious appraisal and valuation. Freedom of choice and religion is a modern idea and a formal concept.


II.LAW V. RELIGION

The thought of all religion is lop-sided in character in India. In our country, public from every religion has a hitch with person who practices any other religion. Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human right states freedom of religion approved in 1947-48, asserts that each and every individual has authority to choose the faith or belief that suits his senses of right and wrong. The major contention was that can the state agencies prevent with the choice of the individual to prefer his own faith. The Supreme Court had come down on the manner where the High court of Kerala treated the matter.

The Supreme Court has also decisively mentioned that individuals have a right to choose his faith and state has no right to intervene. It will be unlawful and against the will of the civilized idea of the freedom of religion. Sardar vallabhbhai patel asked to hold only the affirmative aspect of conversions and to leave it to legislature to decide to make a law to avert forcible conversions. So forcible conversions can never be a part of the fundamental right.

The word professes and propagates not only means to believe in it, but also to put that faith into practice. Propagate would essentially mean that one can also communicate or pass on your thought procedure to others. But the transmission of the thoughts cannot be mean in a way as to persuade fear so that they become victims of false propaganda and they compensate their original faith.


III.CONVERSION V CONSTITUTION

Right to freedom of religion is a fundamental right under our constitution.

The concept of religious freedom as incorporated in article 25 & 26 of COI was largely based upon article 44(2) of the Irish constitution.

If we go back in history, between 1930 to 1940, there were many princely states that had implemented anti- conversion law. Ac to COI, every citizen has right but Constitution does not provide for forceful conversion. Subsequently after independence Indian government provided anti-conversion bill three times before loksabha.

These bills were argued in 1954, 1960&1979 but it could not be approved due to a lack of parliamentary support.

1954- The Indian conversion (Regulation and registration) bill

1960- The backward communities (Religious protection) BILL

1979- The freedom of religion bill.


IV.RELIGION CONVERSION AND IMPACTS

Religious conversion has become the subject of passionate debate in contemporary India .from the early 20th century onwards; it has surfaced again and again in the political realm, in the media and in the courts. During the last few decades the disputes has attained a new climax in the plethora of newspaper, journals, and books whose pages have been devoted to the question of conversion. Apparently a large group of the Indians considers this to be an issue of crucial import to the future of their country.

Generally speaking religion is a system of faith and worship of supernatural forces which ordains regulate and control the destiny of the human kind.

According to the Sage Eurobond, the quest of man for god is the foundation for religion and its essential function is the search for god and the finding of the god

Every individual has a neutral entitlement of religious faith and freedom of conscience, a right to adopt or abandoned any faith of his own choice. In this sense freedom of religion and freedom of conscience is fundamental right both constitutionally and conventionality.


V. Religious conversion under International Law

The freedom of religion and conscience has been recognized under the international law, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted without dissenting vote on 10th December, 1984 the Universal declaration on Human right recognizing fact that the entire humanity enjoys certain alienable rights which constitute the foundation of freedom justice and peace in world

The government of India by its declaration dated 10.4.1979 had accepted universal declaration of Human Rights and the two international covenants with certain reservation.

India also enshrines the freedom of religion apart from COI also enshrines as fundamental rights under article 25, 26,27,28,30


VI. RELIGIOUS CONVERSION IN INDIA


Religious conversion is multifaceted and multi dimensional phenomenon. Indian society is a pluralist and heterogeneous society with multiplicity of races, religious culture, castes, and language etc. Religious conversion has always been a problematic issue in India. Every incident of conversion causes lot of hue and cry in society;

Religious conversion has always been a very sensitive social issue not only because of the reason that it has psychological concerns of religious faith but also because it has wider Scio-legal and socio-political implication. The legislative history relating to the issue of conversion underscores the point that the authorities concerned were never favorably disposed towards conversion. While British India has no anti-conversion rule many princely states enacted anti-conversion law. The Raigarh state conversion Act 1936, The Patna Freedom of Religion Act of 1942, and The Udaipur State Anti-Conversion Act 1946

India’s Freedom of Religion Acts or anti-conversion laws are State-level statues enacted to regulate religious conversions that are not purely voluntary. Such laws began to be introduced in the 1960s after failed attempts to enact an anti-conversion law at union level, and were first enacted by ORRISSA & Madhya Pradesh, at the present time such law is enacted in nine out of twenty-nine states. Arunachal Pradesh, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Uttrakhand, and Uttar Pradesh.

In the 1980s the target of anti-conversion legislation was largely Muslims seeking to convert Non-Muslims, while ‘Christianity has received more attention since 1990s because it’s association with western-style colonialism and the role active proselytizing plays in the course of being a good Christian.


VII. STATE-LEVEL LEGISLATION

  1. ODISHA odisha was the first state to enact anti-conversion legislation, the Orissa freedom of religion act 1967. section 3 of Act stipulates that no person shall be convert or attempt to convert, either directly or otherwise , any person from one religious faith to another by the use of force or by inducement or by any fundamental means nor shall any person abet any such conversion.

The Act defines ‘conversion’ as ‘renouncing one religion and adopting another’ it further defines ‘force’ to include show of force or a threat of injury of any kind. Under this Act inducement includes ‘the offer of any gift or gratification, either in cash or in kind, and shall also include grant of any benefits either pecuniary or otherwise.

In 1989, the Orissa Freedom of religious rule were issued which ‘required the priest performing the ceremony of conversion to ‘intimate the date, time and place of the ceremony along with the names and addresses of the persons to be converted to the concerned District Magistrate before fifteen days of the said ceremony. In 1973 the High Court of Orissa Freedom of Religion Act. Is ultra vires the constitution?

However this decision was overturned by the Supreme Court of India in Rev. Stainslaus v. state of Madhya Pradesh ,


  1. Madhya Pradesh second state to enact. Instead of using term ‘’ inducement,” the act uses the term “allurement” which is defined under section 2(a) as an “offer of any temptation in the form of any gift or gratification either in cash or kind. Unlike the Orissa High Court in 1977 the Madhya Pradesh High Court upheld the Madhya Pradesh freedom of the religion act holding that the relevant sections “establishment the equality of religious freedom for all citizens by prohibiting conversion by objectionable activities such, as conversion by force, fraud and by allurement.

  2. Arunachal Pradesh the states of Arunachal Pradesh anti-conversion provision are contained in the Arunachal Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act 1978, and are along similar lines to those enacted in Orissa and Madhya Pradesh. The law which was passed in view of the perceived threat to indigenous religions received presidential assent on October 25, 1978. While enforcement of the law is lacking the government of Arunachal Pradesh has reportedly announced that it plans to repeal the law. The government reasoned that the current anti-conversion law demoralizes people, targets only Christians and will be misused in the future by irresponsible officers.

  3. CHHATTISGARH Chhattisgarh was as a result of partitioning of the southeastern Madhya Pradesh . It reportedly retained the anti-conversion law of Madhya Pradesh and adopted it under the title Chhattisgarh Freedom of Religion Act 1968. The subsidiary rules for implementation of the act were also retained. Moreover attempts were made to make pre-existing laws more stringent.

  4. GUJARAT The laws were enacted as Gujarat Freedom OF Religion Act 2003. The purpose of this act is to prohibit conversions from one religion to another by the use of force, allurement, or fraudulent means. Unlikely the legislation of other state however the wording of the definition of “convert” is slightly different and means “to make one person to renounce one religion and adopt another religion.

Unlike the other state act where only prior or subsequent notice is required under section 5 or act, a person wanting to convert must seek prior permission from the District Magistrate with respect to conversion and is required to send notice of such conversion to District Magistrate where the ceremony has taken place.

  1. HIMACHAL PRADESH the Himachal Pradesh freedom of Religion ACT, 2006 is “modeled on existing anti-conversion laws in other Indian states.

Section 3 prohibits conversion by use of “force or by inducement or by any other fundamental means” sec 4 requires At least 30 days prior notice to district authorities for conversion. Section 5 provides for punishment in violation of section 3. In a Landmark 2007 decision the Himachal Pradesh Court struck down section 4 of the Act and Rules 3&5 of the Act the Court held that “these provisions were in violation of article 14 of COI and that a person not only has a right of belief, the right to change his belief, but also has the right to keep his belief secret. The Court came to conclusion that “Himachal Act has gone beyond the other two acts and has infringed on the fundamental rights of the convertees” according to news report.

  1. RAJASTHAN Rajasthan state’s parliament also passed an anti-conversion bill in 2006, but it never given assent by the state’s governor. Ac to report the governor “didn’t sign the bill because of complaints by religious minorities. Under the bill “conversion” was defined as “renouncing one’s own religion and adopting another” and own religion was described as “the religion of one’s forefathers.

  2. TAMILNADU the Tamil Nadu prohibition of forcible conversion of religious act 2002. The act now repealed was passed under the initiative of former chief minister of Tamil Nadu the Late Jayaram Jayalalithaa. The act adhered to the the general framework as laid down in the Orissa Freedom of Religion Act 1967. Thousands of Dalit’s converted to Christianity and Buddhism without approval from the local magistrate in the protest of the new anti-conversion law. On May 21, 2004 due to electoral implication and representation from minorities in protest of the new anti-conversion provision. The Tamil Nadu anti-conversion act was repealed by the state government.

  3. JHARKHAND The Jharkhand vidhan sabha passed the Jharkhand dharma swatantra bill, 2017 on august12, 2017

According to sect 4 contraventions is a cognizable and non-bailable offence punishment with imprisonment up to 3 year or fine up to 50000 or both. On February 21, 2018 a news report with the title “conversion rules” indicated that the district administration has published a form that a religious head need to fill up if he/she intends to converts someone and asked religious bodies under its domain to furnish details of their conversion-related activities in a week signaling possibly the first formal rollout of the religion act.

  1. UTTARAKHAND On November 20,2017 the High Court of Uttarakhand issued a decision in the context of a habeas corpus petition suggesting that the state government pass an anti-conversion law. The petition sought the production of one Ms. Sharma who had allegedly married a Husaian ANSARI ( alias Atul Sharma ) . Mr. sharma’s conversion to Hinduism as well as his marriage were contested in the case.

In order to curb this tendency the state government is expected to legislate the freedom of religion act . On March 21,2018 the government submitted the bill in state assembly and bill was signed by governor on april18.

One important difference between the uttarakhand measure and that of other states is that it contains a provision on marriage and religious conversions.




VIII. TREATMENT BY SUPREME COURT

The supreme court in Ratilal Panachand Gandhi v.State of Bombay clarified this provison by holding that

“ every person has a fundamental right under our constitution not merely to entertain such religious belief as may be approved of by his judgment or conscience but to exhibit his belief and ideas in such overt acts as are enjoined or sanctioned by his religion and further to propagate his religious views for edification of others”

IN rev Stainslaus v. State of Madhya Pradesh the Supreme Court upheld the validity of the earliest anti-conversion


Laissez Faire Comparison

Laissez faire is the most protective liberty and dignity for all individual despite of age or capacity for choice. It says that every individual must empower all freedoms in equivalentguage. The term, laissez faire originates from the place of individual integrity and liberty. Freedom is an end itself is an inference .it means a person to be able to choose better that what is chosen is the independence of the wisdom. As the freedom of importance the laissez faire situation based on individual integrity need no special regulations for people who are not able to choose wisely. It present an inside rational assert on behalf of equivalent freedom for all but it is both unfair and unreasonable

The conclusion was that legal incompetent should have individual dignity as competent adults. .in such cases like COHEN V. CALIFORNIA, ROE V. WADE, STANLEY V. GEORGIA it was held that freedom of choice is the basic decision of one’s life respecting marriage, divorce, procreation, contraception, and the children and the upbringing of children. And that privilege of choosing freely is cherished for its influence to individual fruitful happiness.

If freedom comprises the forming of balanced choices, its intelligent is ometricstress practice. The knowledge is on the main of a manner of modifying freedom for people whom the validations for individual do not compass. In accordance to the influential beginning the right to; live free of choice perhaps depends upon the ability of choice but attaining the ability to choose also depend on the uses of one’s right and power

Thus we can validate the attribution of freedom by not presenting the ability of choice since the singular change into a developed and healthy person in large portion on before the gratuity of freedom. The surrogate approach to lawful freedom also aid in evaluating the legal treatment of uncontested custody measures following divorce.

IX. Implementation and Enforcement

Human Rights Concerns

Human rights organizations and institutions have expressed concerns over the years about the rights implications of and lack of equitable treatment under, these state anti-conversion laws. According to the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), “[t]hese laws, based on concerns about unethical conversion tactics, generally require government officials to assess the legality of conversions out of Hinduism only, and provide for fines and imprisonment for anyone who uses force, fraud, or ‘inducement’ to convert another.”[159]


A report released by the USCIRF stated that although India emphasizes “complete legal equality” and prohibits faith-based discrimination, “there are constitutional provisions, State and national laws that do not comply with international standards of freedom of religion or belief, including Article 18 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights and Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.”[160] The report also stated that “the anti-conversion laws both by their design and implementation infringe upon the individual’s right to convert, favor Hinduism over minority religions, and represent a significant challenge to Indian secularism.”[161] in addition, “these laws have resulted in inequitable practices against minorities.”[162]


On the other hand, a Hindu advocacy group in the United States, the Hindu American Foundation, has claimed that


Freedom of Religion laws were primarily formulated to prevent vulnerable populations or populations without power, such as children and those that are poor, uneducated, and illiterate from being preyed upon and falling victim to predatory efforts seeking religious conversion in exchange for or with the allurement of medical and humanitarian aid, education, or employment.[163]


Proponents view the laws as a restriction on conversion, “so as to preserve peace and harmony in plural India.”[164]


There have been increasing reports of “reconversion” ceremonies of non-Hindus to Hinduism conducted by hardline Hindu nationalist groups. A report published by the USCIRF observed that the “reconversion” to Hinduism under the term Ghar Wapsi (returning home) has not been included in the purview of any anti-conversion law. According to the report, “[s]such exclusion of reconversion from the purview of the freedom of religion acts unavoidably suggests reconversion by use of force, fraud, or allurement is not punishable under the provisions of these acts.”[165] In December 2014, “Hindu nationalist groups announced plans to ‘reconvert’ thousands of Christian and Muslims families to Hinduism as part of a so-called Ghar Wapsi (returning home) program.”[166]


AUTHOR - SAURABH GAUTAM

Bio- LLB, Faculty of law, Delhi University

Email- saurabhgautamgauti@gmail.com





  1. The complete words of Vivekananda

  2. Shri Aurobindo – the life divine

  3. The Hindu

  4. Orissa Freedom of Religion Act

  5. Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act

  6. Arunachal Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act

  7. Chhattisgarh Freedom of Religion Act

  8. Conversion rule Telegraph India (21feb, 2018)

  9. Girish Kumar Sharma v. state of uttarakhand& others, habeas corpus

  10. Ratilal panchanand v. state of Bombay

  11. Rev. stainislaus v. state of Bombay

  12. Laura duley Jenkins, legal limit on religious conversion in India.

  13. Faizan Mustafa & jagteshwar Singh shoe freedom of religion in India ; current Issue and supreme court acting as clergy

  14. Uscirf annual report 2016

  15. Karamat cheema, USCIRF

  16. PREETHI MARIA CORREA, anti-conversion law in India and there conflict with religion of India

  17. USCIRF hearing , Hindu American foundation

  18. U.S.Department of state: BUREAU OF DEMOCRACY, HUMAN RIGHTS AND LABOUR, INTERNATIONAL FREEDOM 2010.

  19. Testimony of Katrina Lantos sweet, vice chair, USCIRF, before the Lantos human right commission on the plight of religious minorities in India


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