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Centre’s Plea against forced conversion in India

  • Published
    29th Nov, 2022
Context

The Ministry of Home Affairs has added that “the right to freedom of religion does not include a fundamental right to convert people to a particular religion”.

Background
  • In an affidavit filed by the Government which was asked by the Supreme Court in its last hearing on forced conversions have mentioned that;
  • No fundamental right to convert another person to one’s own religion.
  • Freedom of religion is not guaranteed in respect of one religion only but covers all religions alike.
  • The Supreme Court also expressed grave concern over alleged religious conversions by use of force, allurement, and deception.
Need for Anti-Conversion Laws:
  • No Right to Proselytize: The Constitution confers on each individual the fundamental right to profess, practice, and propagate his religion.
    • The individual right to freedom of conscience and religion cannot be extended to construe a collective right to proselytize.

What motivates people to convert?

  • Conversion based on Marriage
  • Conservation to uplift the social status
  • Conversion for monetary benefits
  • Conversion to promote Illegal activities like Terrorism
  • Conversion for Jobs
  • The right to religious freedom belongs equally to the person converting and the individual seeking to be converted.
  • Fraudulent Marriages: In the recent past, several instances have come to notice whereby people marry persons of other religions by either misrepresentation or concealment of their own religion and after getting married they force such other person to convert to their own religion.
  • To address issues like;
    • Threats of forceful conversion.
    • The problem of Inducement or allurement.
    • Religious conversion is not a Fundamental Right.
  • Vulnerable Groups: Tribals, adolescents, women, and unaware people especially in Rural areas

Right to Freedom of religion in India:

Freedom of Religion laws’ is currently in force in 8 states:

  1. Arunachal Pradesh 
  2. Odisha
  3. Madhya Pradesh
  4. Chhattisgarh
  5. Gujarat
  6. Himachal Pradesh
  7. Jharkhand
  8. Uttarakhand
  • The Indian Constitution allows individuals the freedom to live by their religious beliefs and practices as they interpret these.
  • In keeping with this idea of religious freedom for all, India also adopted a strategy of separating the power of religion and the power of the State
  • Constitutional Provisions:
  • Article 25: Freedom of conscience and free profession, practice, and propagation of religion
  • Article 26: Freedom to manage religious affairs
  • Article 27: Freedom to pay taxes for the promotion of any particular religion
  • Article 28: Freedom to attend religious instruction or worship in certain educational institutions.

Supreme Court Judgements on Marriage and Conversion:

  • Hadiya Judgement 2017:
    • Matters of dress and of food, of ideas and ideologies, of love and partnership, are within the central aspects of identity.
    • Neither the State nor the law can dictate a choice of partners or limit the free ability of every person to decide on these matters.
    • The principle that the right to marry a person of one’s choice is integral to Article 21.
  • 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 benefits do not hold water.
  • Salamat Ansari-PriyankaKharwar 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).
  • Puttaswamy or ‘privacy’ Judgment 2017: Autonomy of the individual was the ability to make decisions in vital matters of concern to life.
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