DESIDERATED Anti Conversion Law

Religion comprises one’s own spiritual perspective of rightness or wrongness, as a code of ethical rules for its followers. Law itself is a dispensation of the doctrine of practical religious prescription. The guardian of the law, the Supreme Court, itself has recognized the significance of religion as a ‘doctrine of beliefs’ and a matter of faith with individuals or communities, having its basis in“a system of beliefs or doctrine regarded by those who profess that religion as conducive to their spiritual wellbeing.”The preamble of the constitution has assured of these beliefs as well as faith and made it the precursory objective to be provided to the people of the State. For as much India, being a secular state, is neutral with respect to all religions, thus, all religions possess equivalent status in the eyes of law. Therefore, Freedom regarding the right to religion, subject to certain reasonable restrictions, has been safeguarded and homologated by the constitution of India. 

Does this secularism work on ground level among the people of a state or is just a mere guiding word assured by preamble? Do the religions are all on the same plane in the eyes of beings living within the state or are they the same only in the eyes of the state for administering law? Or does a forced system of beliefs being imposed over people with the labelled tag of secularism? As, religion is one’s inner freedom of conscience, belief, and faith, which cannot be compulsively enforced. Any act of abusing or pestering someone’s freedom and right of religion will lead to the disturbance of tranquillity, peace, and safety of his community along with him, causing concussion of public order, contradicting the concept of secularism. Religion has been playing the role of foundation of philosophy and spirituality in an individual’s life, an individual’s forced conversion of religion has been denied in all religious preaching, irrespective of this, so far, various lawfully unacceptable activities are taking place through soliciting the backward classes of community, women, and misleading minors and unlawfully forcing them to renounce their religion and then compelling them to adopt another religion. It  is also alleged that women are married with the allurement of easy saturation then being converted into other religions and are sent to foreign countries for malversation. The alleged organization behind these lured conversions by means of marriage is called the unofficial name of Love Jihad by some right-winged individuals, which is itself an undefined term, not even stated in any of ordinances or law. It has been observed that several conversing activities, by either an organization or individuals, are seen only with specifically some certain classes or poor sections of society which are vulnerable to be lured, like tribal, scheduled caste, poor classes of minority, etc. to cope with their socio-economic status by vindicating them with providing ration cards, BPL, medical ailments, and other gratifications. Many groups and individuals are being financially aided by foreign countries to get bows down in front of them out of liability and coerce them to convert their religion. Not only these forced conversions are graving the religious sovereignty, but the institutions and organization of these disgruntled communities often forcefully perform unlawful reconversion of them into their prior religion, this activity is again named as ‘Ghar vapsi’ by right-winged people. Backward classes, children (minor) , and women of the society, who are the most constitutionally protected section, are now being played as the role of the battlefield of this war of unlawful or organized conversions. Women’s bodies and sexuality are being here objectified and a source of performing immoral religious activities. Forced conversion, by restraining one from choosing freely their own religion with free will, coming up with attacking religious integrity, social ethics, right of women, as well right of backward classes. 

Various observations, allegations, and objections raised regarding the questions like, is there any organization supporting these or is this just the own made philosophy of some religionist? What are the sources causing these unlawful conversions at this large scale? Is there any foreign interference with conversion? Is this style of an organization called ‘love jihad’ a mere unofficial term having non-substantive existence? All were justified in the case of  Shahan Sha A vs The State Of Kerala on 9 December 2009, Where these all interpellation were investigated and deduced as, there is no information regarding any organization operating love jihad or Romeo jihad has been recorded, also entanglement of Muslim youth forum, Shaheen force, and certain organizations in Saudi Arabia which provided financial assistance to these activities in the name of the scholarship to the youth has been recorded. The report also states that about 3000-4000 religious’ conversions after love affairs have taken place, in 2005-2009.

 It’s been construed to go through with these facts that particularly ‘love jihad’ is just an unofficial word used by a particular group of people, being an immaterial and subjective matter to be yet investigated. However, there are forceful conversions taking place with the aid of certain organizations, alluring masses, and girls to get converted into other religions by means of coercion and another inappropriate and unlawful manner. 

Gandhiji says, “I am, then, not against conversion. But I am against the modern methods of it. Conversions nowadays have become a matter of business, like any other… every nation considers its faith to be as good as that of any other. Certainly, the great faiths held by the people of India are adequate for her people. India stands in no need of conversions from one faith to another.’

Forced conversions are not only hitting the right to freedom of religion by snatching their right to conceive their religion freely but also scathing their personal liberty, shielded by article 21 of the constitution, as the word ‘religion’ used in article 25 and 26 of the constitution, is ‘personal’ to the person having faith and belief in his religion and It’s something which binds a man with cosmos, as stated in Shri A.S. Narayana Deekshitulu vs State Of Andhra Pradesh & Ors on 19 March 1996. The ‘conscience’ and ‘propagate’, are two very gist words of article 25, and their essence ‘freedom of conscience’ and ‘right to propagate religion’ oftentimes get misinterpreted with their meaning. Conscience is one’s inner freedom with his relationship with God whereas ‘propagate’ alludes to disperse and publicize these religious views with supplication, without any element of coercion. Article 25(1) guarantees the right to transmit one’s religion by exposition of its tenets, but not give the right to convert any person to one’s religion. The right to convert any person to one’s religion, neither falls into the ambit of the ‘right to propagate’ nor is a fundamental right under the constitution. In the case of Rev. Stainislaus vs State Of Madhya Pradesh & Ors on 17 January 1977 , distinguishment between the meaning of ‘right to transmit’ and ‘right to convert’ is profoundly interpreted as, if a person purposely or forcefully undertakes the conversion of another person to his religion, as distinguished from the effort to transmit or spread the tenets of his religion that would be impingement on the “freedom-of-conscience”, assured to all citizens of the country alike. This won’t merely affect the individual; it would amount to a disturbance of public order. Thus, if any attempt is made to raise communal passions, e.g., on the ground of being “forcibly” converted to another religion, it would, in all probability, give rise to an apprehension of a breach of the public order, affecting the community at large. As stated in Brij Bhushan And Another vs The State Of Delhi on 26 May 1950 Public order also includes public safety, and this means the safety of the community from the external and internal dangers, like force conversion. Religion being the matter of one’s personal liberty and dignity, any intervention causing it to be snatched or unlawfully forced over someone, would fall out of the pursuit of Article 21. The words “Personal Liberty” involve the right to freedom of speech and expression, which is of the widest amplitude as it covers a variety of rights which go to constitute the personal liberty of man. Forced conversion is violative under art 19(a) , so long as it circumscribes one’s consent to act at their own will to choose their religion freely, which is, in fact, the infusion of personal liberty guaranteed by art 21 of the constitution. These altogether raise a recondite question mark over the equal protection assured by article 14 of the constitution. 

No secular state is or can be merely neutral or unbiased among religions, as the state defines the boundaries within which fairness must exist. With keeping an eye over the neutrality between secularism and religion, the state must place a thin filter of the same neutralizing boundaries between religions also, which would resist the involuntary religious conversion infringing these neutralizing boundaries. Being the concierge of these neutralizing boundaries between religions, the state shall be able to encounter the unlawful religious conversion of vulnerable masses and individuals with mandating previous sanctions and declarations, stating their genuine motive publicly. This boundation will insert the right to religion in its true sense. In States, not having stringent anti-conversion laws, the cases of forced conversion get registered under the Anti-dowry Act, domestic violence or rape act, The dowry Act, 2005, Protection of women from Domestic Violence, etc. Thus, there has been a heuristic need for a tough anti-conversion law. Anti-Conversion Law is not a pioneering concept, laws for prevention of anti-conversion has been prevailing since princely state before independence like such as the Raigarh State Conversion Act of 1936, the Patna Freedom of Religion Act of 1942, the Sarguja State Apostasy Act 1945, and the Udaipur State Anti-Conversion Act of 1946. These all preventional laws needed to submit an application to the designated officer in order to convert their religion into another religion. For the lieu of maintaining public order from foreign influences, social cohesion, and national security, a committee chaired by doctor M.B Niyogi was appointed, and their submitted report recommended restricting conversion or prohibit “any attempt or effort (whether successful or not, directly or indirectly to penetrate into the religious conscience of a person of another faith)”. Putting forth the report’s inclusiveness, many states have enacted anti-conversion legislation or act, against forced conversion, such as M.P. dharma Swatantra Adhiniyam 1968, freedom of religion act of Orissa 1968. All previous interdiction laws against forced conversion were revived with more emphasis on state legislation and reworked. These restored anti-conversion laws have been brought up by several states such as Orissa, M.P., Chhattisgarh, Arunachal Pradesh, Gujrat, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Uttarakhand, U.P., installing restrictions over the unlawful conversion of women, minor, mass, people belonging to ST, SC or any other conversion. The preventional provision of these acts required a declaration with notice before 60 days by the individual and 1 month by the convertor. Thus, it appears that for conversion there should be a declaration of one’s belief and the said declaration should be in such a way that it should be known to those whom it may interest as stated in Dr. Abdur Rahim Undre vs. Smt. Padma Abdur Rahim Undre. The primary motive of this act is having access over the mala fide (Intention purpose and cause of the purposed conversion.) of the converts and those who are being converted, with a procedural declaration before the conversion. As at the threshold two assumptions came up within the view of legislation, firstly the purpose behind the shifting of their loyalties from one religion to another, and secondly, the conversion being legitimate or lured. The present Anti conversion law prohibits conversions of religion via, force, misrepresentation, undue influence, and allurement, or fraud, or marriage being the sole purpose for same, and along with conserving abetting, convincing and conspiring to such conversions, with putting the burden of proof over the convertor. The right to convert has been exempted by the constitution to be mentioned, as like ECHR and UDHR, but this law permits lawful conversion with free will and absolute consent of the one’s being converted, without any element of coercion, allurement, etc., whereas authority is permitted to look over the legitimacy of conversion within the prescribed time of the notice. This law has given prominence to the prohibition of marriage solely based on religious conversion, it not at all likely to divest the right to choose a partner or prohibit inter-faith marriages. Marriage is something that is rooted in the facet of love affection, where religion has nothing to do with it. Thus, luring one to convert only for the account of marriage would be unjust and violative of this act. 

CONCLUSION

India is the country of appraising the concept of “unity in diversity”, and this unity is again subject to the secularity of the state, where certain right varies with respect to the religious identity and status in the society. Thus, encroaching with religious identity, i.e., conversion, not only becomes a matter of religion but also a matter of politics. Furling the actual volition of the act of the legislation, by naming “love jihad” or “Romeo Jihad” or misjudging this by tempering with inter-faith marriages, hereby now, become a total political gimmick by politicians and political groups.

Miss. <strong>Shruti Agrawal</strong>
Miss. Shruti Agrawal

Winner in the 1st edition of the article writing competition, “लेख-SHASTRA”.

Miss. Aastha Mishra
Miss. Aastha Mishra

Winner in the 1st edition of the article writing competition, “लेख-SHASTRA”.

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