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Sansad TV: Religious conversion a serious issue

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Centre’s stand:

  • The right to religion did not include the right to convert other people through fraud, deception, coercion, allurement and other means.
  • According to the SC, fraudulent or induced conversion impinged upon the right to freedom of conscience apart from hampering public order.
  • Therefore, the state is well within its power to regulate/restrict forceful conversion.

Need of anti-conversion laws:

Other side of the coin:

  • Freedom is the fundamental right as envisaged in Indian Constitution. Freedom of Religion is one of those rights on which the fundamental pillar is based upon. In India, Religions do play a role in every aspect of life but at the same time the Religion is for the sake of the individual.
  • Choosing any Religion by heart and profess must not be restricted by any law. Any such anti-conversion law would otherwise diminish the basic principle of “freedom to choose and profess any religion” and would go against the spirit of the constitution.
  • Moreover, in a country like India where secularism is an element of The Preamble, what is actually needed is to protect the vulnerable and weaker sections of the society who are sometimes forced to convert their religion.
  • Sometimes people change their religion under social circumstances to maintain their wellbeing, and if such restrictions are imposed then it would be severely affecting them.
  • 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:

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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:

  • 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.
  • States while enacting anti-conversion laws should not put any vague or ambiguous provisionsfor the person who wanted to convert of his own will.
  • The anti-conversion laws also need to include a provision to mention the valid steps for conversion by minority community institutions.
  • People also need to be educatedabout the provisions and ways of Forceful conversions, Inducement or allurement, etc.