Let’s talk about the various anti-conversion laws made by different states for the cases of ‘Love Jihad’ which have increased in the past few years.
New Delhi: In India anti- conversion which is known as ‘ Love Jihad’ in layman’s language has always been a issue of debate and recently as anti- conversion bill has been passed in the Uttar Pradesh State Assembly.
The idea of secularism is further strengthened by granting Freedom of Religion under Article 25-28 of the constitution of India. It was by 42nd Constitutional Amendment Act 1976 that the concept of ‘Secularism’ became a part of the basic structure of the constitution. Because of this amendment, the word ‘ Secular’ was added in the Constitution of India.
It was in a landmark judgement S.R. Bommai Vs Union of India ( 2 SCR 644, that the Supreme Court of India ruled that India was already a secular state ever since of the origin of the constitution. Although, there is liberty granted in our Constitution still there have been many incidents of intolerance of religions which resulted in riots and violence, notably, the Anti-Sikh riots in Delhi in 1984, Anti-Hindu riots in Kashmir in 1990, Gujarat riots in 2002 and the Anti-Christian riots in 2008.
History of Anti Conversion Laws
The issue of conversion of religion is not new as it has always made people uncomfortable and due to this there have been so many demands to put a legal stop on it since the 19th century.
India is known as the land of diversity and it is the home to a number of religious faiths and practices. India is the birthplace of four major world religions in the world that is –Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and Jainism. As per the report of 2011 census data, 79.80% of the population of India is Hindu, while 14.23% Muslim, 2.30% are Christian, 1.72% are Sikh, 0.70% are Buddhist, and 0.37% are Jain.
As mentioned, originally, it was during the British Colonial era, Hindu princely states adopted laws restricting religious conversions— mainly in the hindmost half of the 1930s and 1940s. In India there were over a dozen princely states which included Kota, Bikaner, Jodhpur, Raigarh, Patna, Surguja and Kalahandi. The acts that were made during that period includes : the 1936 Raigarh State Conversion Act; the 1942 Surguja State Apostasy Act; and at last the 1946 Udaipur State Anti-Conversion Act.
First, in 1954 the Indian Conversion (Regulation and Registration) Bill was introduced. This bill failed to gather majority support in Parliament’s lower house and was rejected by the sitting members of the lower house. This bill was followed by the enactment of the Religious Protection Act in 1960.
In 2015, the high-ranking members of the ruling party that is the NDA government, called for a national anti-conversion rule. The proposal of the incumbent government to enact the law at the national legislature reportedly “hit a roadblock” .
Initiatives taken by the government and state legislations:
After the failure of various attempts at the Union or Central level, such laws of anti-conversion were first enacted by the states of Orissa and Madhya Pradesh. Initially it was in the 1980s, the target of anti-conversion legislation was largely Muslims. But after that in the 1990s even Christianity began to receive more attention in the 1990s. Though the state laws have some variations, they are very similar in their content along with the structure. .
The “Freedom of Religion laws” are currently in force in eight states out of 28 states — Odisha (1967), Madhya Pradesh (1968), Arunachal Pradesh (1978), Chhattisgarh (2000 and 2006), Gujarat (2003), Himachal Pradesh (2006 and 2019), ( Jharkhand (2017), and Uttarakhand (2018). The laws passed in Himachal Pradesh in 2019 and Uttarakhand also declare a marriage to be void if it was for the sole purpose of conversion, or a conversion was done for the purpose of marriage.
Later the states of Tamil Nadu in 2002, and in Rajasthan in 2006 and 2008, also passed similar legislation for the anti-conversion. However, the legislation of Tamil Nadu was repealed in 2006 when Christian minorities had performed protests. The Uttar Pradesh Law Commission of Uttar Pradesh recommended enacting a new law to regulate religious conversions in the state. This led the state government to promulgate the recent Ordinance which was passed in 2020.
The Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2020 was passed by UP Government on 28 November 2020 is being treated as a law against Love Jihad or anti conversion. This Ordinance passed by the government of Uttar Pradesh provides punishment up to 10 years for violation of its provisions along with other sanctions.
Case Laws :
1) Rev Stanislaus Vs State of Madhya Pradesh 1977 SCR (2) 611:
• In the Stanislaus judgement, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutional validity of the Madhya Pradesh and Odisha anti-conversion laws.
• It was held that the right to freely profess, practice and propagate religion as laid down in Article 25 of the constitution does not include the right to convert.
• The top court also held that conversion is not a fundamental right and must be regulated by the state.
2) Shafin Jahan vs Asokan K.M. and Ors (Hadiya Case)
• In this case, matters of dress and of food, ideas and ideologies, love and partnership, are under the central aspects of identity.
• Neither state nor the law can dictate a choice of partners or limit the free ability of every person to decide on these matters.
• The choice of a life partner, whether by marriage or outside, is part of an individual’s “personhood and identity”.
3) Lata Singh vs State of U.P. & Anr (2006) 5 SCC 475 (India) : This case talks about the right to marry and inter caste marriage. It was said that the Constitution will remain strong only if we all accept the plurality and diversity of our culture of India.
The relatives dissatisfied by the inter-religious marriage of the inter-faith couple could opt to cut off their social relations rather than resort to violence or harassment
4) Soni Gerry vs Gerry Douglas (2018) 2 SCC :
In this case, the Supreme court of India warned judges from playing “super-guardians”.
5) Salamat Ansari-Priyanka Kharwar case of Allahabad High Court (2020)
In this case it was held that 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).
Why are anti conversion laws required?
It was that the need for anti conversion laws was that a committee led by Chief Justice of Nagpur that is Justice Niyogi found that religious conversions were not “completely voluntary”. The forcible conversion of religion would involve several crimes, including wrongful confinement as per by Section 342 of IPC, intimidation by Section 506 of IPC, mentioned in Section 359-369 of IPC, assault in Section 352 of IPC), the threat of divine displeasure in Section 508 of IPC) etc. These anti-conversion laws safeguard human rights by preventing fake, fraudulent or deceitful promises of marriage.
Last but not the least it can be concluded that all the states in India have the authority to enact laws which can control religious conversions and inter- faith marriages or ‘ Love Jihad ‘. With this at the same time there should be a balance and must uphold the right to equality, right to freedom and personal liberty, the right to privacy and the right to life and these laws need to afflict a balance between the freedoms and malafide conversions of one’s religion to another religion.