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ETHICS OF RIGHT TO FREEDOM OF RELIGION

  • Category
    Ethics
  • Published
    23rd May, 2022

Introduction: -

Article 25 of the Constitution of India provides the citizens the right to practice, propagate, and profess the religion in a way that does not disrupt public order, public health, and morality adversely. This provision, though not prohibits conversion, calls out proselytism, which is meant by involuntary forced conversion through bribery, coercion, or violence. 

In the light of the same, the debate about the anti-conversion laws arises. The question here is not about how constitutional such laws are the question here is how ethical it is to force someone to convert; or how ethical to put legal restrictions on one’s right to conversion. 

What is Anti-Conversion Law-?

  • India’s Freedom of Religion Acts or “anti-conversion” laws are state-level statutes that have been enacted to regulate religious conversions. The laws are in force in the states, such as Arunachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, etc. 
  • All of the laws seek to prevent any person from converting or attempting to convert, either directly or otherwise, another person through forcible or fraudulent means, or by allurement or inducement. However, the anti-conversion laws in Rajasthan and Arunachal Pradesh appear to exclude reconversions to native or original faiths from their prohibitions. 
  • Moreover, such a law passed by the Karnataka government held a marriage void, which has happened with the sole purpose of conversion or vice-versa e. conversion for the sole purpose of marriage. 

Ethical Issue Arises through such laws: - 

When the government held a marriage void under the pretext of certain conditions, there is an underlying presumption of the presence of force, threatening, coercion, and undue influence in every inter-faith marriage, which questions the autonomy, and in mandating publication of an intention to convert, it invades on the right to privacy the person as enshrined under Article 21 of the Constitution, and upheld by the Supreme Court in the case of Justice K.S. Puttuswamy vs. Union of India. 

The right to marry of one’s choice is one’s Human Right as well. Moreover, the lengthier procedure to avail the approval of the administration, and the constant surveillance by the government diminishes the value of religious diversity.

The provisions prohibiting conversion for the purpose of marriage, and reconversion to original religion strike at the heart of Indian secularism. These provisions treat liberties governing ethical choice not as fundamental rights but as grants that are subject to the whims and fancies of a bureaucratic, theological state.

So, the government needs to question whether it is ethical to curb one’s fundamental rights under the garb of such harsh laws. Though the fact cannot be denied that forceful conversions are a menace to our society, there could be a more inclusive, and progressive interpretation of the law, or some alternative solutions can also be resorted to curb this menace. 

Way Forward: - 

Sustainable Amendment: - The laws are required to be amended to preserve the autonomy, and liberty of the individuals. There is a need to establish a balanced approach between the Fundamental Rights of the individuals, and the state’s duty to promote religious harmony. For, the same, the government needs to gather suggestions from all the stakeholders while framing such laws. 

Harmonious Interpretation and Application of Law: - The fact cannot be denied that the anti-conversion laws are well-required in our society but the underlying ideologies, majoritarianism, and objective with which such laws are enacted create the chaos, which needs to be set aside through the liberal interpretation by the lawmakers, and the judiciary. 

Administrative Efficiency: - In such laws, the district administrators have been empowered to inspect, and provide approval for such inter-faith marriages; hence, the administrative efficiency should be strengthened to imbibe empathy, open-mindedness, and compassion among the public officers. 

Promotion of Ethics, and Harmony: - The most important factor that is required to be done is to promote ethical values, and harmony among the common masses for the promotion of diversity, and constitutional ethos. 

conclusion

Anti-conversion laws should be inclusively discussed. We need to make sure that no religious community comes at a disadvantage due to the regressive interpretations of the law. The stringent and majoritarian approach of the law can defeat the societal diversities, values, and ethos. 

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