States must file counter-affidavits in anti-conversion law cases in three weeks, says SC
18, Mar 2023
Prelims level : Policies Mains level : GS-II Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
Why in News?
- The Supreme Court recently gave States three more weeks to file counter-affidavits to petitions challenging their anti-religious conversion laws.
About the News:
- The court was hearing a petition, which said a special law should be enacted against forced conversions or the act should be incorporated as an offence in the Indian Penal Code.
- The petition has alleged “mass conversions” of socially and economically underprivileged people, particularly those belonging to the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes.
Rationale behind the enactment of anti-conversion laws in India:
- Threats of forceful conversion.
- Problem of Inducement or allurement.
- Religious conversion is not a Fundamental Right.
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.