Uttarakhand Freedom of Religion (Amendment) Act 2022

    0
    522

    In News

    • Recently, the Governor of Uttarakhand gave consent to the State’s Freedom of Religion (Amendment) Act.

    Key Points

    • Uttarakhand Freedom of Religion Act:
      • This law was made in Uttarakhand in 2018. 
      • There was a provision of punishment of one to five years for conversion by force or inducement.
    • Important Provisions of Amendment Act:
      • Strict Provisions: It is a more stringent anti-conversion Act that makes unlawful religious conversion in the state a cognizable and non-bailable offence. The conversion by force, greed or fraud will be a crime in the State.
      • Greater Punishment: Under this, there is a provision for a jail term of at least three years and up to 10 years of punishment for religious conversion. 
      • Higher Fines: In the new law, a fine of ?50,000 has been made compulsory. Anyone found guilty of conversion will have to pay up to ?5 lacs to the victim.
    • Need for the Amendment:
      • There was a long-standing demand in Uttarakhand for strict action against forced conversions. 
      • Amendment in the 2018 Act was necessary to remove certain difficulties in the law. 
      • Also, it is important to “equally strengthen the importance of every religion” under Articles 25, 26, 27, and 28 of the Constitution.

    Freedom of Religion

    • About:
      • The framers of the Indian constitution debated the inclusion of the “right to propagate” as a fundamental right. 
      • Article 25(1) of the Constitution says “all persons” are equally entitled to the freedom of conscience and the right to profess, practise and propagate religion freely.
      • 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.
    • State Laws:
      • There are a few states (Arunachal Pradesh, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, and Uttarakhand) which have enacted anti-conversion laws in India.
    • Concerns:
      • Some members of the Constituent Assembly wanted to replace the word “propagate” with “practise privately”, fearing that the right would create room for forceful conversions.
      • The right to propagate was ultimately kept in the Constitution but States and civil society have knocked on the doors of the judiciary time and again to interpret this freedom. 

    Criticisms 

    • Affects the right to privacy: The Anti-Conversion law enacted a restriction on conversion to one’s choice of religion, practice, and propagation and thereby infringes the right to privacy of individuals.
    • Insecurities amongst Minorities: Religious leaders of minority communities faced apprehension of being arrested and prosecuted under anti-conversion law. 

    Verdicts on Religious Freedom

    • Arun Ghosh vs. State of West Bengal 1950:
      • The Supreme Court (SC) held that attempts to raise communal passions through forcible conversions would be considered a breach of public order, affecting the community at large. 
      • It held that it was within the power of States under Entry 1 of the State List of the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution to enact local Freedom of Religion laws.
    • Rev. Stainislaus vs. State of Madhya Pradesh 1960s
      • A five-judge Bench of the SC dissected Article 25 to hold that “the Article does not grant the right to convert other persons to one’s own religion but to transmit or spread one’s religion by an exposition of its tenets.”
      • The court upheld the validity of two regional anti-conversion laws of the 1960s — the Madhya Pradesh Dharma Swatantraya Adhiniyam (1968) and the Orissa Freedom of Religion Act (1967).
      • It interpreted that “What is freedom for one is freedom for the other in equal measure and there can, therefore, be no such thing as a fundamental right to convert any person to one’s own religion,” 
    • Justice Rohinton F. Nariman Bench 2021:
      • In 2021, the petitioner approached the top court alleging “mass” conversions across the country “by hook or by crook”
      • The Court said people were free to choose their own religion.
      • The Court had said that every person was the final judge of their own choice of religion, and invoked the Puttaswamy judgment (2018) to hold that religious faith was a part of the fundamental right to privacy.

     

    Conclusion

    • Everybody has the right to choose their religion, but not by forced conversion or by giving temptation.
    • The law will prove to be a historical decision against the conspiracy of religious conversion in the shadow of fear, temptation, and other fraudulent means.

    Source: TH