The issue of anti-conversion law in India has sparked intense debates and discussions, highlighting the complexity and controversies surrounding this topic.
What are Anti-Conversion Laws?
Anti-conversion laws are legislative measures aimed at preventing or prohibiting religious conversions. These laws can be used to discourage individuals from leaving a particular faith or to restrict religious groups from actively seeking new members from other religious. backgrounds.
The specific provisions and enforcement of anti-conversion laws differ across jurisdictions, and they may involve both criminal and civil penalties. However, the implementation of these laws has raised concerns regarding their potential to favor dominant religions or suppress minority faiths.
Critics argue that anti-conversion laws infringe upon the fundamental right to freedom of religion, as protected by international human rights laws.
What is the Need for Anti-Conversion Laws?
- Protection of cultural and social cohesion: Some people believe that these laws are necessary to prevent conflicts and divisions within a community that can arise from religious conversions.
- Preservation of traditions and beliefs: Supporters argue that anti-conversion laws help safeguard the influence and power of a particular religion by preventing erosion due to conversions.
- Prevention of coercion and deception: Advocates claim that these laws are essential to protect individuals from being forced or deceived into converting to another religion.
- Instances of fraudulent marriages: There have been cases where individuals were forced to convert after marrying someone from a different religion, leading to concerns about deceitful practices.
- Judicial recognition: The Supreme Court has acknowledged incidents of forced conversion, highlighting their violation of an individual’s right to freedom of religion, as well as their impact on the secular foundation of society.
Controversies Surrounding Anti-Conversion Laws
- Violation of Secularism and Religious Freedom: Critics argue that these laws go against the principles of secularism and religious freedom guaranteed by the Fundamental Rights in India’s constitution.
- “Love Jihad” Controversy: Critics argue that movements against such marriages not only violate religious freedom but also infringe upon other constitutional rights, such as the Right to Life and Personal Liberty (Article 21) and the Right to Equality (Article 14). Critics view these laws as unjustified and unconstitutional.
- Criminal Cases without Anti-Conversion Laws: Even in states without specific anti-conversion laws, cases of forced conversion have been reported. Critics claim that existing laws already prevent forced conversions
- Critics also express concerns that these laws can be misused to suppress minority religions and undermine the right to freedom of religion.
Current Status of the Law Against Conversion in India
In India, there are several laws that regulate the conversion of one religion to another. These laws differ from state to state, and their specific provisions can vary greatly.
- According to Article 25 of the Indian Constitution, people have the freedom to practice, profess, and propagate any religion.
- Religious groups also have the right to govern their own religious affairs, as long as they abide by public morality, health, and order.
- There are currently no national restrictions or regulations on religious conversions in India.
- In 2015, the Union Law Ministry stated that Parliament does not have the legislative authority to enact laws prohibiting conversion. Nevertheless, several states have enacted “Freedom of Religion” laws over the years to prohibit forced, fraudulent, or coerced conversions.
- However, private member bills to control religious conversions have been introduced in Parliament multiple times since 1954, but they have never been passed.
- In general, anti-conversion laws in India require individuals who wish to convert to another religion to obtain government permission beforehand. Some states have stricter laws than others, and some laws specifically target certain religious groups or activities.
The Supreme Court of India has ruled that anti-conversion laws are constitutional as long as they do not interfere with an individual’s right to freedom of religion. However, there have been cases where these laws have been used to target and persecute minority religious groups.
Judgments of the Supreme Court of India in Relation to Anti-Conversion Laws
- Hadiya vs. Ashokan K.M: The Supreme Court affirmed that adults have the right to marry and convert to another religion of their choice. It emphasized that the state should not interfere with an individual’s freedom to marry and convert.
- K.S. Puttaswamy or ‘Privacy’ Judgment 2017: The autonomy of the individual was the ability to make decisions in vital matters of concern to life.
- Lata Singh vs. State of Uttar Pradesh: The Supreme Court upheld the right of individuals to marry a person of their choice, irrespective of religion, caste, or social status. It declared any interference in this right by the state or others as a violation of the freedom of choice.
- Sarla Mudgal vs. Union of India: The Supreme Court ruled that conversion to another religion for the purpose of marriage is permissible. However, it clarified that such conversions should not be used as a means to evade legal obligations or responsibilities. The court stated that conversions solely for the purpose of marriage are void and cannot serve as a legal defense.
- S. Pushpabai vs. C.T. Selvaraj: The Supreme Court affirmed that individuals have the right to convert to another religion, provided the conversion is genuine and voluntary. It emphasized that any form of coercion or misrepresentation in connection with religious conversions violates the freedom of religion.
Proponents argue that such laws are necessary to protect cultural and social cohesion, preserve traditions and beliefs, prevent coercion and deception, and address instances of fraudulent marriages. On the other hand, critics argue that these laws violate the principles of secularism and religious freedom, and can be misused to target minority religions.
The Supreme Court of India has upheld the constitutionality of anti-conversion laws as long as they do not interfere with an individual’s right to freedom of religion. However, there have been instances where these laws have been used to persecute minority religious groups. It is important to strike a balance between safeguarding individual freedoms and protecting against forced or fraudulent conversions while ensuring the rights and liberties of all individuals are respected.
Which States in India have Anti-Conversion Laws?
Several states in India, including Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Gujarat, and Odisha, have implemented anti-conversion laws.
Why are Anti-Conversion Laws Needed?
Proponents argue that anti-conversion laws are needed to prevent forced or fraudulent conversions and to maintain religious harmony and social order.
What are the Issues Against Anti-Conversion Law in India?
Critics of anti-conversion laws argue that they infringe upon religious freedom, as enshrined in the Indian Constitution, and can be misused to target minority communities.