Anti-conversion Laws versus Freedom of Conscience Deliberating upon the Juxtaposition
University Five Year Law College, University of Rajasthan, India
Volume II – Issue I, 2020
Religious conversion refers to the act of renouncing one’s own faith, belief or opinion and adopting and another’s. Voluntary conversion is guaranteed to individuals under clause (1) of Article 25 of the Constitution of India which provides for the freedom of conscience. The said freedom is subject to public order, morality, health and provisions of Part III. However, involuntary conversions or proselytization has been prohibited not only by judicial precedents but also by various enactments at the state level. Hon’ble Shri K Santhanam submitted, “People have freedom of conscience and, if any man is converted voluntarily owing to freedom of conscience, then well and good. No restrictions can be placed against it. But if any attempt is made by one religious community or another to have mass conversions through undue influence either by money or by pressure or by other means, the state has every right to regulate such activity.”
It is surprising that at the central level, India is not having any anti-conversion law even though controversial mass conversions in the country have been rampant. In the years, 1954, 1960 and 1979 bills for regulating conversions were introduced in Parliament but none passed for want of parliamentary support. Conversely, eight out of twenty-nine states in the country have anti-conversion laws in force. The laws at the state level are analogous and some states have peculiar provisions in regard to conversions. The country has witnessed frequent mass conversions and inception of concepts like ‘ghar wapsi’ (Homecoming) and ‘love jihad’. The regulation of conversions has always been problematic and rarely dealt with adequacy in spite of existence of legislations and precedents for the same.