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Do we need a Central law against forced conversion?

GS Paper 2

Topics Covered: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

 

Context:

The Vishwa Hindu Parishad has demanded a Central law against forced religious conversion.

 

Background:

States such as UP and MP have already brought strong laws against forced conversions. Haryana and Karnataka had also announced intentions to enact such laws.

  • But, the proponents say the recent events in the country proved that it is a pan-Indian racket and hence requires a Central law.”

 

Rationale behind the enactment of anti-conversion laws:

  1. Threats of forceful conversion.
  2. Problem of Inducement or allurement.
  3. Religious conversion is not a Fundamental Right.

 

What critics say?

Such laws have come under sharp criticism from several legal scholars who had contended that the concept of ‘love jihad’ did not have any constitutional or legal basis.

  • They have pointed to Article 21 of the constitution which guarantees individuals the right to marry a person of one’s choice.
  • Also, under Article 25, freedom of conscience, the practice and conversion of religion of one’s choice including not following any religion, are also guaranteed.

 

Supreme Court on Marriage and Conversion:

  1. The Apex Court of India in its several judgements has held that the state and the courts have no jurisdiction over an adult’s absolute right to choose a life partner.
  2. The Supreme Court of India, in both the Lily Thomas and Sarla Mudgal cases, has confirmed that religious conversions carried out without a bona fide belief and for the sole purpose of deriving some legal benefit do not hold water.
  3. Salamat Ansari-Priyanka Kharwar case of Allahabad High Court 2020: The right to choose a partner or live with a person of choice was part of a citizen’s fundamental right to life and liberty (Article 21).

 

Need of the hour:

  1. There is a need for uniformity: Article 18 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights mentions everyone has the right to freedom of religion including changing their faith. Since it is a state subject, the Centre can frame a model law like Model law on contract farming etc.
  2. States while enacting anti-conversion laws should not put any vague or ambiguous provisions for the person who wanted to convert of his own will.
  3. The anti-conversion laws also need to include a provision to mention the valid steps for conversion by minority community institutions.
  4. People also need to be educated about the provisions and ways of Forceful conversions, Inducement or allurement, etc.

 

Insta Curious:

Did you know that the Special Marriage Act, 1954 (SMA) was enacted to facilitate the marriage of couples professing different faiths? Reference: 

 

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. About Article 21.
  2. Article 25.
  3. About SMA.
  4. States which have passed anti-conversion laws.

Mains Link:

The right to choose a partner or live with a person of choice was part of a citizen’s fundamental right to life and liberty. Discuss.

Sources: the Hindu.