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Rajasthan HC sets guidelines to check ‘forced conversion of religion’

Any inter-faith marriage that does not adhere to the directives could be struck down if challenged.

india Updated: Dec 16, 2017 00:03 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Jodhpur
Rajasthan high court,Inter faith marriage,Rajasthan govt
The Rajasthan government has asked the judiciary to clarify the legal status of religion change and inter-faith marriages.(Reuters File Photo)

The Rajasthan high court on Friday ruled that anyone wanting to change their religion would have their name put up on a government notice board for a week and people would be allowed to file objections before permission was granted. The court did not specify who was eligible to object.

The decision was part of a set of guidelines issued by the court to check what it called the “forcible conversion of religion”. The court also said that any conversion or inter-faith marriage that did not adhere to the directives could be struck down if challenged.

The guidelines came in the wake of a Rajasthan government plea to clarify the legal status of religious conversions and inter-faith marriages.

“Some guidelines are necessary to check the forcible conversion of religion because religion is a matter of faith and not of logic,” a bench of justices Gopal Krishna Vyas and Virendra Kumar Mathur said.

Justice Vyas said the guidelines would remain operative till the Rajasthan Religious Freedom Bill Act of 2006 (which is awaiting the President’s assent), or any other act governing the subject, was enacted.

While giving people the liberty to convert after attaining the majority age, the guidelines said the individual should “satisfy himself/herself about niceties of conversion of religion”.

They empowered a district magistrate to take appropriate action under the law on information of forceful conversion.

“Every citizen has a fundamental right of freedom of religion under Article 25 of the Constitution of India, but at the same time, it is the duty of every citizen to protect the feelings of other religion and not to act contrary to the provisions of Constitution,” the bench added.

The court also put the onus on the person conducting the conversion to ascertain whether the individual changing his or her faith is “desirous to change the religion, is having full faith in the newly adopted religion and should also ascertain whether he/she is under any threat of other person or not...”

The genesis of the guidelines lie in a case filed by one Chirag Singhvi, who alleged that his sister Payal -- now Aarifa – was converted to Islam under coercion and that her marriage papers were forged.

The police had produced Arifa (22) before the court on November 7, when the high court allowed her to live as per her wishes. The bench reserved its judgment in the case on November 29.

First Published: Dec 15, 2017 20:14 IST