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Law panel wants legal process for conversion

delhi Updated: Jan 11, 2011 23:16 IST
Satya Prakash
Satya Prakash
Hindustan Times
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The Law Commission has recommended a voluntary legal procedure for a person intending to change his/her religion so as to avoid controversies regarding the religious status, particularly in cases involving inter-religious marriages.

In its first report, the 19th Law Commission headed by Justice PV Reddi suggested that within a month of conversion, the person could send a declaration to the officer responsible for the registration of marriage. It said the declaration would serve as an important piece of evidence in support of conversion but it could not be treated as a conclusive proof.

Commission says

Within a month of conversion, the convert, if she/he chooses, can send a declaration to the officer responsible for marriage registration
Official shall display the declaration on notice board of office till the date of confirmation.
Apart from the basic information about the convert, the declaration shall mention the religion to which the convert originally belonged and the religion to which he/she converted, the date, place of conversion and nature of the process undergone.
Within 21 days, the convert can appear before the registering officer, establish her/his identity & confirm contents of declaration.
Registering officer shall record fact of declaration and confirmation as also objections, if any, including the name and particulars of the objector.
Copies of declaration, confirmation and extracts from register to be given to the party who gave declaration or authorised legal representative, on request.

Highlighting the problems faced by converts in proving their religious status in courts, the Kerala high court had in October 2009 favoured an appropriate enactment on the issue and had asked the commission to examine the issue.

Accepting the HC's suggestion, the panel said there was no need for any enactment and the Central Government could exercise its executive power under Article 73 to issue appropriate instructions to states and union territories to implement the recommendations.

"It is clarified that in whichever state, there is a law governing conversion such as the Freedom of Religion Act, the above recommendations do not apply," the panel said.

Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh and Arunachal Pradesh enjoy the Freedom of Religion Act that prohibits conversion by use of force, allurement or by fraudulent means and requires the person taking part in the conversion ceremony to inform the district magistrate either in advance or within a stipulated period after the conversion.

Article 25 of the Constitution guarantees right to religion, which includes right to convert to another religion, but there are no legal requirements to be fulfilled to change one's religion.

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