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Law panel opens conversion debate

A person changing religion should be required to undergo certain legal procedures to avoid any controversy regarding his or her faith, the Law Commission has said.

delhi Updated: Jul 26, 2010 23:12 IST
Satya Prakash

A person changing religion should be required to undergo certain legal procedures to avoid any controversy regarding his or her faith, the Law Commission has said.

Currently, a person is free to convert to any religion but there are no legal requirements to be fulfilled. Absence of legal proof of conversion often leads to controversies and court battles over a convert’s religious status, particularly in marriages.

Under the Hindu Marriage Act, a Hindu can marry only a Hindu (which includes Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists). Under Muslim law, a Muslim cannot marry a Hindu.

In inter-religion marriages one of the parties converts and questions are raised over the converted person’s religious status. Kerala, where ‘love jihad’ hit headlines in recent years, witnessed many such controversies.

The Commission has invited views/suggestions for preparing a report on the need for a legal procedure for conversion or re-conversion.

Highlighting the problems faced by those changing religion in proving their religious status in courts, the Kerala High Court had in October 2009

said: “The law, which recognises such conversion, must also be in a position to prescribe how the parties, without the necessity to get involved in unnecessary and time-consuming litigations, can declare to the world such conversion. Appropriate stipulations of law appear to be necessary on this aspect in respect of conversions to and from all religions.”

Maintaining that prima facie it was not in favour of disturbing the existing state of law as laid down in a series of court-decisions as regards the essential elements of proof required for establishing the plea of conversion/re-conversion, the Law Commission agreed with the Kerala HC’s basic suggestion.

The Commission said: “It would be proper to implement the suggestion of the High Court to a limited extent by providing that the convert/reconvert should be given an option to file a declaration before the concerned Registrar of Marriages with the prescribed particulars so that it could serve as a piece of evidence among others in resolving the issue — as and when a future controversy arises.”