Religious conversion for the sake of marriage: The dire need for a law against it
New Delhi, Nov 04: A much needed law against Love Jihad will be implemented in four BJP ruled states. Karnataka was the fourth BJP ruled state which said it would enact a law against Love Jihad.
The law once enforced would ban religious conversion for the sake of marriage. If anyone is found guilty then they would be severe and swift punishment. Apart from Karnataka, the Chief Ministers of Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Madhya Pradesh have also said that they would bring in a law against religious conversions for the sake of marriage.
These developments come in the wake of the Allahabad High Court saying that conversion only for marriage is unacceptable.
The court made the observation while rejecting a petition filed by an inter-faith couple seeking directions to the police and the girl's father not to interfere in their married life.
While rejecting the petition the court said that the lady has converted her religion on June 29 2020 and solemnised the marriage on July 31. This clearly reveals that the conversion has taken place only for the sake of marriage.
Love Jihad has been flagged on several occasions by the Intelligence Bureau and other law enforcement agencies. It has been a menace in many parts of the country, especially in Kerala. Recently a woman from Kerala had spoken about her ordeal and said that she was a trap of Love Jihad.
She said that she had met a person called Mushabeer and fell in love with him. However later on he began to pressurise her to convert to Islam. He also threatened to pour acid on her if she did not change her religion, she had also alleged.
She said that an adalat was held in Pathanamthitta district in August 2019 where she narrated her ordeal. In another incident, a lady said that she met a Christian had later converted to Islam. She asked her to marry him and later forced her to join the Islamic State.
Now it has dawned upon some of these girls that there were indeed victims of Love Jihad.
There are cries of despair, with many of them realising that the entire exercise had turned out to be a futile one. Leave alone a Caliphate, many in Afghanistan, who are part of their troop did not even visit Mosques or pray.
Nimisha alias Farima and Ayesha alias Sonia Sebastin were both trapped and forcibly converted to Islam. They were then tricked into marriage and later taken to Afghanistan to join the Islamic State. It may be recalled that 21 had left for Afghanistan from Kerala in one batch.
Farima during her questioning at a Kabul jail spoke about Love Jihad. She felt that it was a conspiracy that was backed by Pakistan to trap girls and convert them. The larger plan is to trap girls and then recruit them into the Islamic State.
It may be recalled that Nimisha was converted to Islam three years ago. She then got married and when she was in the seventh month of her pregnancy, she left for Afghanistan. She was told that they would lead a truly Islamic life and every true Muslim must join hands in establishing the Caliphate.
During her questioning she also said that, while it was told that they would lead a religious life, in reality, they were being urged to train for Jihad. Her mother back in Kerala has made an appeal to the Indian government to get her daughter back. The Indian government is however extremely cautious as there are enough reports and incidents to suggest that the silent returnees of ISIS are extremely dangerous. Many go out train and return only to carry out attacks, set up modules and spread the ISIS propaganda.
Case study: The Rev Stanislaus vs Madhya Pradesh case:
This judgment by the Supreme Court passed by a constitutional bench headed by Justice A N Ray probably gives one of the best definitions of Freedom to Religion.
The question before the court was whether the fundamental right to practice and propagate religion includes the right to convert.
The court held in clear terms that while Article 25 does provide freedom of religion, it also went on to state the word propagate religion does not give the right to convert.
The word propagate has been used in Article 25(1) of the Indian Constitution, but that does not give the right to convert another person to one's own religion, but to transmit or spread one's religion by an exposition of its tenets.
The Bench also observed that while propagating religion was allowed, converting does not form part of fundamental rights. What the Article grants is not the right to convert another person to one's own religion, but to transmit or spread one's religion by an exposition of its tenets.
In the Sarla Mudgal case, the court had held that the religious conversion into Islam by a person from non-Islamic faith is not valid if the conversion is done for the purpose of polygamy.
In the Lily Thomas case it was observed that marrying another woman after converting to Islam is punishable under the bigamy laws.
In the Chandra Sekaran case the court had observed that a person does not ceases to be Hindu nearly because he declares that he has no faith in his religion.
A person will not cease to be Hindu even if he does not practice his religion till he does not renounces his religion or starts living and behaving like an atheist or agnostic or starts eating beef or insulting God or Goddesses. He does not ceases to be member of the religion even if he starts expressing his faith in any other religion, he continuous to be a Hindu.
Bills and laws:
The first time that the Parliament took up this matter was in the year 1954. The Bill was called the Indian Conversion(regulation and registration bill). It was taken up again in the year 1960, but was dropped for lack of support and heavy opposition from minorities.
In 1968 Orissa and Madhya Pradesh enacted laws called the Madhya Pradesh Dharma Swatantraya Adhiniyam and the Orissa Freedom of Religion Act respectively. These laws were enacted to prevent conversion from one religious faith to any other by use of force or inducement or by fraudulent means.
Later on several other states like Tamil Nadu and Gujarat enacted similar laws under which forced conversions were made punishable under the Indian Penal Code. The punishment for forcible conversions ranged from a three year jail term and fine of Rs 20000.
Law commission recommendations:
The Law commission of India which was asked to look into the issue of forcible conversions made the following recommendations.
Within a month after the date of conversion, the converted person, if she/he chooses, can send a declaration to the officer in charge of registration of marriages in the concerned area.
The registering official shall exhibit a copy of the declaration on the Notice Board of the office till the date of confirmation.
The said declaration shall contain the requisite details viz., the particulars of the convert such as date of birth, permanent address, and the present place of residence, father's/husband's name, the religion to which the convert originally belonged and the religion to which he or she converted, the date and place of conversion and nature of the process gone through for conversion.
Within 21 days from the date of sending/filing the declaration, the converted individual can appear before the registering officer, establish her/his identity and confirm the contents of the declaration.
The registering officer shall record the factum of declaration and confirmation in a register maintained for this purpose. If any objections are notified, he may simply record them i.e., the name and particulars of objector and the nature of objection.
Certified copies of declaration, confirmation and the extracts from the register shall be furnished to the party who gave the declaration or the authorized legal representative, on request.
The law commission clarified that in states that have a law governing conversion the recommendations would not apply.