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Anti Conversion Laws (A Socio legal perspective)

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The constitution of India guarantees every one of its citizens the right to profess, practice and propagate a religion under article 25. Article 26 of the Indian constitution gives the right to every religion to manage its own affairs. So, in this case, is conversion legally bound within the purview of the Indian constitution? If yes, what are the problems that the society would face and if no, what is the loss for the society? This is the issue which currently needs to be discussed from both social perspective and from legal perspective. If the laws are for efficient administration of a territory then how would these help in dealing with sensitive issues such as conversion?

Where does the problem start?:
As long as the people want to convert from one religion to another religion with utmost trust in that religion with a prime aim to attain salvation, then there is absolutely no problem in conversion. When this conversion happens to let the religion meddle with the political system of the country, then it becomes wrong. When seen in an illustrious manner, imagine, if a person gets converted from one religion named ‘A’ to another religion named ‘B’ under the guidance of a spiritual master of the religion ‘B’, then there is no objection.

But if the spiritual master takes advantage of the spiritual mentality of that person and if he wants that person to vote for a particular candidate in an election or if the spiritual master wants that person to join in a rebellion against the integrity of the nation or if the master uses this same undue influence over that person to degrade other religion causing religious tensions in the region becomes an issue which cannot be justified by any prevailing law of this territory. When these kinds of conversions happen, then it is legally not bound as the sole intention of the person who converts the other guy is to possess an undue influence over him. Converting a poor from one religion to another by giving money or an asset to him doesn’t also pave way for a religion to be called as a moral one as the intention of the person who convert matters. If the thought of gaining undue influence over another person arises, then that conversion is not bound legally and morally.

The basic difference between a political party and a religious institution is that a political party is not religion biased and a religious institution is. A political party speaking to uplift a particular religion in a biased manner by degrading or defaming other religions could not be accepted and in the same manner a religious institution interfering in political ideologies must not be entertained as the primary ideology behind religion is to attain salvation and not to attain political power. A prayer hall is to pray and not to pass degrading, defamatory comments on other religions or to incite violence in the form of religious clashes. This would never be wanted by the people of this country as one of the fundamental structures of the constitution is the secular aspect of our country which shows us as a unique democratic tolerant nation.

A constitutional view:

Some people may argue that conversion is bounded within the purview of our constitution as article 25 gives the freedom of practicing any religion as per the will of a person. What we must know is that no fundamental right is an absolute right and it has its own reasonable restrictions. Article 25(1) is clearly using the words ‘subject to public order, morality’. So, the right to religion is subjective to public order and morality. Article 19(1)(a) gives every citizen of this country the fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression. It is also subjected to reasonable restrictions. One of it is the fundamental right of one citizen must not deprive the fundamental right of another citizen unless accepted by law. So, when Article 25 read with article 19(1)(a) of the constitution in the perspective of conversion, no person has the right to convert another person by hurting the sentiments of other religion or by deceiving him in order to gain an undue influence over that person. Article 26 deals about the rights of the religion to manage its own religious affairs. Some religions have conversion as a part of their religion to make many people to walk on the path of their religious head. This can be done constitutionally if this article is invoked only on the thoughts as above mentioned. There is no test to determine whether to find the conversion is legally bound or not. If it is morally not right, then it would lead to unconstitutionality as article 26 of one person must not forcefully interfere with article 25 of another person with the help of the right given under article 19 of the deceiver.

Work of legislature:
The duty of the legislature is to find a way to determine a test for finding the legal validity of a conversion. It is not right from the part of the constitution and from the side of the state to stop a heartful conversion without any political disturbance as aforesaid. Any forced conversion or a conversion which is not bound by law must be stopped by the government to save the democratic setup from it not turning into an aristocratic rule. Anti-conversion laws are already under motion in states like Uttar Pradesh and it is highly necessary for other states to follow such a pattern in implementing strict laws against the offenders.

It maybe religiously right to convert according to some religions but in a setup like ours whenever there is a collision between the religion and the law, it is always the constitution which prevails as it is otherwise known as the supreme law of the land. In the case of Indian Young Lawyers association Vs. state of Kerala, the Honourable Supreme court agrees with this view of viewing socio legal issues. Anti-conversion laws are a must to this nation in order to retain the democratic setup and not to get into a semi aristocratic setup under the shadow of democracy in the upcoming future. It is also needed to balance and maintain our culture and heritage by viewing secularism in the way it ought to be viewed for achieving an idealistic nation.

– Ramanujam Vedhanarayanan ,Law student, SASTRA University.

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