Haryana notifies rules under anti-conversion Law
Why in News?
- The Haryana government has notified rules to implement its law against religious conversion through force, undue influence or allurement under which district magistrates will have to publish a public notice and invite objections, if any, to an intended conversion.
About the News:
- The State Assembly had passed the Haryana Prevention of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Bill in March this year. The anti-conversion law was notified a month later after the governor’s assent.
- The new rules, Haryana Prevention of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Rules, 2022, were notified on December 15 under the Act for implementation after the state cabinet recently approved them.
- Similar bills were passed in the recent past in BJP-ruled states including Himachal Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh.
About the Bill:
- According to the notified rules, any person intending to convert to another religion shall, prior to such conversion, give a declaration in Form ‘A’ to the district magistrate of the district in which he is permanently residing.
- “In case the person intended to be converted is a minor, both of the parents or surviving parent, as the case may be, shall give a declaration in Form ‘B’.
- Any religious priest and/or any person who intends to organise conversion under the Act shall give prior notice in Form C to the district magistrate of the district where such conversion is proposed to be organised.
- The district magistrates will have to publish a public notice and invite objections in writing, if any, to the intended conversion.
- Such notices will be put up in the district magistrate’s office once a declaration is made by a person who intends to convert to another religion willfully “without any misrepresentation, use of force, threat, undue influence, coercion, allurement or by any fraudulent means or by marriage or for marriage”.
- While making a declaration before the district magistrate, such individuals will have to specify details like reason for conversion, how long they have been professing the religion which they have decided to renounce, whether they belong to a Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe, occupation and monthly income.
- “The district magistrate shall on the receipt of written objections to such intended conversion… verify and get the matter inquired into by such officer or agency, as he may deem fit,” the rules state.
- Upon verification, if the district magistrate finds that force or inducement has been used or is likely to be used in any conversion and that a conversion has taken place without notice, he may refer the case along with all material adduced during the course of the inquiry to the concerned police station for registration of a case and its investigation.
- The district magistrate, if satisfied that the conversion is willful and without any misrepresentation, use of force, threat, undue influence, coercion, allurement or by any fraudulent means or by marriage or for marriage, will issue a certificate to that effect.
- Any person aggrieved by any order of a district magistrate passed under the relevant provisions of the Act may file an appeal within 30 days from the date of receipt of a certified copy of the order before the concerned divisional commissioner.
- A priest or any person who intends to organise the conversion will have to seek prior permission from the district magistrate, giving full details of such a ceremony, according to the rules.
- Under the Act, in cases where courts declare such marriage as null and void, the law provides the right to maintenance to the victim husband or wife and the minor child born out of wedlock until he or she turns adult, though it will continue in case the child is physically challenged.
- According to the anti-conversion law, the burden of proof as to whether the conversion was not effected through misrepresentation, force, undue influence, coercion, marriage or any other fraudulent means done for the purpose of carrying out conversion lies on the accused.
- Further, if the conversion is done by allurement, use of force, coercion or fraudulent means, including the use of digital mode, there is a provision for imprisonment of one to five years and a fine of not less than ₹1 lakh.
- Anyone concealing his religion with an intention to marry shall be punished with imprisonment for a term of not less than three years, which may extend up to 10 years and shall be liable to pay a fine not less than ₹3 lakh.
- Anyone conducting a mass conversion is punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than five years and may extend up to 10 years and shall also be liable to pay a fine not less than ₹4 lakh, according to the law.
Why is the government bringing this Bill?
- According to the government and officials, many incidents of alleged “love jihad” have been reported in Karnataka over the past few months, especially in the southern parts of the state.
- “Love jihad” is an expression used to refer the alleged attempts by Muslim men to force Hindu women to change their faith, frequently through allurement, promise of marriage or coercion.
- The government has told Parliament that “the term ‘love jihad’ is not defined under the extant laws”, and the anti-conversion legislation in the states do not use the expression. But it is still used freely in political conversations and speeches.
What does the Bill passed by the Assembly propose?
- The Bill passed seeks to “prohibit religious conversions which are effected through misrepresentation, force, undue influence, coercion, allurement or by any fraudulent means or by marriage or for marriage by making it an offence”.
What do critics say?
- Such laws have come under sharp criticism from several legal scholars who had contended that the concept of ‘love jihad’ did not have any constitutional or legal basis.
- They have pointed to Article 21 of the constitution which guarantees individuals the right to marry a person of one’s choice.
- Also, under Article 25, freedom of conscience, the practice and conversion of religion of one’s choice including not following any religion, are also guaranteed.
Supreme Court on Marriage and Conversion:
- The Apex Court of India in its several judgments has held that the state and the courts have no jurisdiction over an adult’s absolute right to choose a life partner.
- The Supreme Court of India, in both the Lily Thomas and Sarla Mudgal cases, has confirmed that religious conversions carried out without a bona fide belief and for the sole purpose of deriving some legal benefit do not hold water.
- Salamat Ansari-Priyanka Kharwar case of Allahabad High Court 2020: The 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).
Need of the hour:
- There is a need for uniformity: Article 18 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights mentions everyone has the right to freedom of religion including changing their faith. Since it is a state subject, the Centre can frame a model law like Model law on contract farming etc.
- States while enacting anti-conversion laws should not put any vague or ambiguous provisions for the person who wanted to convert of his own will.
- The anti-conversion laws also need to include a provision to mention the valid steps for conversion by minority community institutions.
- People also need to be educated about the provisions and ways of Forceful conversions, Inducement or allurement, etc.