Haryana’s anti-conversion Bill
Recently, Haryana introduced the Haryana Prevention of Unlawful Conversion of Religious Bill, 2022 in the Vidhan Sabha amid protests by the Opposition.
What is the government’s reasoning for enacting such a legislation?
- Law is enacted to create a deterrent for people when they start doing something wrong. Such incidents [of ‘love jihad’] have started taking place in a few places of Haryana.
- Now several incidents of forced religious conversion by way of coercion and allurements have come to light.
- Laws are required to prevent any of these incidents from increasing in number.
What does the Haryana govt’s anti-conversion Bill propose?
- The Bill seeks to “prohibit religious conversions which are effected through misrepresentation, force, undue influence, coercion, allurement or by any fraudulent means or by marriage or for marriage by making it an offence”.
What is the Opposition’s objection to the Bill?
- The Bill is “unconstitutional” and termed it the government’s attempt to “create a divide in the society on the basis of religion”.
What is the reasoning that the Bill mentions?
- According to the draft of the Bill, 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.
- Still, there have been umpteen cases of religious conversions, both mass and individual.
- Obviously, such incidents have been hotly debated, more so in a multi-religious society, such as ours.
- The presence of pseudo-social organizations with a hidden agenda to convert the vulnerable sections of other religions.
- There have been instances when gullible people have been converted by offering allurement or under undue influence. Some have been forced to convert to other religions.”
What is the legal position on such a Bill or such incidents of forceful conversions?
- The government says that “in recent past several instances came to the notice that with an agenda to increase strength of their own religion by getting people from other religions converted, 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”.
- Such incidents not only infringe the freedom of religion of the persons so converted but also militate against the secular fabric of our society.
- The Bill, therefore, seeks to prevent religious conversions which are affected through use of force, under threat, misrepresentation, undue influence, coercion, allurement or by any fraudulent means or by marriage or for marriage by making it an offence.
- Provide greater punishment for such conversion in respect of the minor, women, Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes.
How will a wilful conversion take place?
- Every individual converting from one religion to another shall submit to the prescribed authority a declaration that the conversion affected was not through misrepresentation, use of force, under threat, undue influence, coercion, allurement or by any fraudulent means or by marriage or for marriage.
- The designated authority shall make an inquiry in all such cases.
- There will also be a provision for declaring such marriages null and void if found to have been solemnised by concealment of religion.
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