Anti-conversion law more political than practical: Pinto

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New Delhi, Oct 21 (UNI) The anti-conversion legislations enacted in some states were more for political gains than that for any real threat of forced conversion, feels Vice Chairman of the Minorities Commission Michael Pinto, who has visited Orissa twice since the violence against a minority community broke out there in August in the backdrop of some extremist organisations accusing the missionaries of giving inducements to people to change their religion.

''When I visited the worst affected district of Kandhmal, and enquired from the district authorities, I found that so far no case had been registered under the Orissa anti-conversion law passed in 1967,'' Mr Pinto told UNI.

Moreover, another interesting fact that came to light was that whereas the anti-conversion law was passed in 1967, rules were framed only in 1999, which aptly indicates that the political leadership of the state did not feel any real need of such a law, he said.

A law must not be enacted to remain just on statue books. If it was not meant to be implmented, it should be scrapped, he said.

Mr Pinto during his visit, asked Kandhmal DM as to how many people had asked for permission to change their religion, and was replied that there had been only two applicant, but there was no record with the district administration of whether they were denied or given permission.

All that was a sad reflection on the mindset that created the need of anti-conversion laws to deal with a situation which was non-existent, said Mr Pinto.

''How can state be arbiter of our conscience? How can a DM decide as to whether a person was changing his or her religion out of conviction or because of some inducement. It is a matter of mind and heart. How can state force one to remain in the fold of a religion one has been born into? Why can't one chose the religion one wants to follow? Any curtailment of these freedoms for the individual was anti-Constitutional and violated principle of democracy and Rule of Law,'' says the NCM Vice Chairman.

He said he asked the Orissa Government why it was not using the anti-conversion law against those who were threatening the minority victims of violence lodged in relief camps of dire consequences if they returned to their home without converting back to Hindu religion.

''Use provisions of the Act against such persons and file charge sheet.Rule of law must be applicable to all, I told the Chief Minister,'' he said.

He also feels there is a case for relook at the Supreme Court's 1977 judgment upholding the Madhya Pradesh Dharma Swatantrata Adhiniyam (Freedom of Religion Act) 1969 in the Reverend Stanislaus vs State of Madhya Pradesh case.

According to the apex court verdict, one's right to propagate does not include the right to convert another person to one's faith.

Mr Pinto argues that when a person preaches his or faith to another person, he is not coverting him to his faith in any case, as it is the person who been preached to decides whether to embrace the new faith or not. And if a person is prohibited from chosing his or her religion, it is a direct violation of the freedom religion guaranteed by the Constitution.

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