Draft Haryana Prevention of Unlawful Conversion of Religious Bill, 2022

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    In News 

    •  The Haryana cabinet approved the draft Haryana Prevention of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Bill, 2022. 

    Objectives and Need 

    • The Constitution confers on each individual the fundamental right to profess, practice and propagate his religion. 
    • However ,there have been instances when gullible people have been converted by offering allurement or under undue influence. Some have been forced to convert to other religions.
      • Some groups  did this with an agenda to increase the strength of their own religion by getting people from other religions converted.
    • In the recent past, several instances have come to the notice that whereby people marry persons of other religion by either misrepresentation or concealment of their own religion and after getting married they force such other person to convert to their own religion.
    • Conversion just for the purpose of marriage is unacceptable. Such incidents not only infringe the freedom of religion of the persons so converted but also militate against the secular fabric of our society.
      • Therefore the bill was approved to sustain the principle of secularism.
        • According to the Constitution, “state has no religion, all religions are equal, and no religion shall be given preference over the other”.
        • it reads, adding that the citizens are free to preach, practice and propagate any religion of their choice.

    Major Highlights of the Bill

    • Prohibition: 
      • It prohibits religious conversions which are affected through misrepresentation, force, undue influence, coercion, allurement or by any fraudulent means or by marriage or for marriage by making it an offense.
    • Punishment:
      • It provides for greater punishment for such conversions in respect of minors, women, Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes. 
    • It also provides that the burden of proof as to whether a conversion was not affected through misrepresentation, use of force, under threat, undue influence, coercion, allurement or by any fraudulent means or by marriage or for marriage for the purpose of carrying out conversion lies on the accused.
      • Every individual converting from one religion to another shall submit to the prescribed authority a declaration that the conversion affected through was not misrepresentation, use of force, under threat, undue influence, coercion, allurement or by any fraudulent means or by marriage or for marriage and such authority shall make an inquiry in such cases.
    • The proposed Bill will also have a provision for declaring null and void any marriage that is found to have been solemnized by concealment of religion.

    Which other states have similar Legislation?

    • Arunachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand have laws restricting religious conversion. Odisha was the first State to enact anti-conversion legislation, the Orissa Freedom of Religion Act, 1967. Madhya Pradesh enacted the same the following year.
      • Penalties for breaching the laws can range from monetary fines to imprisonment, with punishments ranging from one to three years of imprisonment and fines from ?5,000 to ?50,000. 
      • Some of the laws provide for stiffer penalties if women, children, or members of Scheduled Castes or Scheduled Tribes (SC/ST) are being converted. 

    Associated with Anti-Conversion Laws

    • The uncertain and vague terminology like misrepresentation, force, fraud, allurement presents a serious avenue for misuse.
    • The present anti-conversion laws focus more on the prohibition of conversion to achieve religious freedom.
      • However, the broad language used by the prohibitive legislation might be used by officials to oppress and discriminate against minorities.
    • These laws may pose a threat to the secular fabric of India and the international perception of our society’s intrinsic values and legal system.

    Right to Freedom of religion in India

    • 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 promotion of any particular religion
    • Article 28: Freedom to attend religious instruction or worship in certain educational institutions

    Source:IE