Draft Anti-Conversion Bill: Haryana
- Recently, the Haryana government released the draft of the Haryana Prevention of Unlawful Conversion of Religious Bill, 2022.
- The bill aims at prohibiting religious conversions which are affected through misrepresentation, force, undue influence, coercion, allurement or by any fraudulent means or by marriage or for marriage by making it an offense.
- Other States like Karnataka, Arunachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand have also passed laws restricting religious conversion.
- No Right to Proselytize: The Constitution confers on each individual the fundamental right to profess, practice and propagate his religion.
- The individual right to freedom of conscience and religion cannot be extended to construe a collective right to proselytize.
- For the right to religious freedom belongs equally to the person converting and the individual sought to be converted.
- Fraudulent Marriages: In the recent past, several instances have come to the notice that whereby people marry persons of other religion by either misrepresentation or concealment of their own religion and after getting married they force such other person to convert to their own religion.
- SC Observations: Recently, the Supreme Court also took judicial notice of such instances.
- According to the court, such incidents not only infringe the freedom of religion of the persons so converted but also militate against the secular fabric of our society.
Provisions of the Draft Bill
- The Bill provides for greater punishment for such conversions in respect of minors, women, Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes.
- It also provides that the burden of proof as to whether a conversion was not affected through misrepresentation, use of force, under threat, undue influence, coercion, allurement or by any fraudulent means or by marriage or for marriage for the purpose of carrying out conversion lies on the accused.
- Every individual converting from one religion to another shall submit to the prescribed authority a declaration that the conversion affected through was not by any fraudulent means.
- Besides, it provides for declaring marriages null and void, which were solemnized by concealment of religion.
- There has been no central legislation restricting or regulating religious conversions.
- However, since 1954, on multiple occasions, Private Member Bill shave been introduced in (but never approved by) the Parliament, to regulate religious conversions.
- Further, in 2015, the Union Law Ministry stated that Parliament does not have the legislative competence to pass anti-conversion legislation.
- Over the years, several states have enacted ‘Freedom of Religion’ legislation to restrict religious conversions carried out by force, fraud, or inducements.
Source: THE HINDU.