Religion and Conversion: A complex affair

“By studying different religion we find that in essence they are in one”

–  Swami Vivekananda

In India, like most other traditional societies religion had been the foundation of the society. It is the fabric which has bound each and every people. India is a secular country which meant a country having no religion and it is equal for all. But is that really especially in a country like India which is crafted and fabricated by so many religions. Religion is a shadow which will remain intact even though one wants to get rid of. There had been instances in the various states of the country where the religion of the people were put to test., whether it is Gharwapsi in U.P or Love Jihad, whether it is controversy over Surya Namaskar or canvassing votes in the name of religion. Religion has always been an integral part. However in the recent judgement of Apex Court, it took a bold step to stop the canvassing votes in the name of religion. In recent years there were cases of conversion which came into limelight and as a result legislation was brought in various states. States like Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Arunachal Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat and Rajasthan.

However the anti-conversion law in Tamil Nadu is repealed and in Rajasthan bill is in process and Jharkhand is going to bring the law, this law which in some states is called as Freedom of Religion Rules or Dharma SwatantraAdiniyam. These acts, rules or bills mainly focus on conversion by force, fraud or allurement/ inducement.But conversion of the person from one religion to another can also be there because people find solace in some other religion which is sometimes not by force, fraud or by allurement/inducement but by wilful.Moreover downtrodden class convert to get financial help and a sense of equality and brotherhood as provided by the religion like Christianity. As a result these acts are challenged as it violates the fundamental right of the people. And as a result article 25(1) is put to test and it becomes a matter of review. In a case of Mrs Yulithavs State of Orissa[1]High court had given the judgement in the favour of the petitioner and held that Orissa Freedom of Religion Act 1967 is unconstitutional. However Supreme Court in Rev. Stainislausvs State Of Madhya Pradesh &Ors[2] clearly distinguishes and put forward an elaborate discussion as whether Right to freedom of propagation includes Right of freedom of conversion. The Apex Court clearly stated that Freedom of Propagation is the fundamental Right but Right to freedom of Conversion is not the fundamental Right and held the Madhya Pradesh Dharma SwatantrayaAdhiniyum, 1968 constitutional validity. However it is important to discuss as what Article 25 of the Indian Constitution 1950 is all about. Article 25(1) apart from propagation of Religion also talks about free conscience, to practice, to profess etc. Free conscience means envisages a freedom of an individual to hold or consider a viewpoint or thought regardless of anyone else’s view. Freedom of conscience involves freedom of thought, opinion and religion and includes right to manifest a chosen religion. Thus Freedom of conscience includes freedom of conversion which is consequentially included in freedom to profess. Article 25 deals with individual right and not the collective right which is being dealt in Article 26. The State must avoid excessive government entanglement with religion. However there is exception to article 25(1) that in case of public order, morality and health a state has power to come in between and acts for the betterment of the state.  Apart from challenging Article 25(1) there had also been questions raised as to whether state legislature is competent to enact these acts of anti-conversion. There had been different opinions that are being reflected in various cases as it is important to know whether the act fall into the purview of exception of article 25(1). Other question comes as to whether religion falls into the state list, concurrent list or union list. Contention is also put forward that interference of state in religious matter is violation of right to privacy which is Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.

Religion is a very volatile subject in India. It is a very sensitive issue in a country like India where a man if tries to deviate a little from the path of religion has to bear a serious consequence. The laws like anti- conversion clearly states that there is no uniformity in the country and as it is said by Lord Buddha “Just as a candle cannot burn without fire, men cannot live without a spiritual life.”So Religion is the soul of the people where essence of every religion is same but it is being interpreted in the name of different faith.

[1] AIR 1973 Ori 116.

[2]AIR 908, 1977 SCR (2) 611.



ABOUT THE AUTHOR

twinkle-singh

TWINKLE SINGH

It’s always being a difficult task for me to write something about myself but to start with, I am a law student studying in Chanakya National Law University. I love to write the articles based on law and it’s legal aspect. I believe in having a colourful life rather than being black and white. Apart from law, I love drawing especially cartoon characters but I made only for myself that too when I really feel like. I am active in social media quite a lot. I love experimenting such as in the field of making deserts, I love making cakes in the free time. This is my short and sweet bio which is not sufficient to describe myself but at least it can give some idea about me.

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