Faith and freedom -Freedom of religion is protected when state keeps away from matters of faith

Source: The post is based on an article “Faith and freedom -Freedom of religion is protected when state keeps away from matters of faith” published in The Hindu on 6th December 2022.

Syllabus: GS 2 – Governance

Relevance: concerns associated with anti-conversion law in Gujarat

News:  The article discusses the tussle between Gujarat government and High Court regarding the anti-conversion law.

What is the tussle between Gujarat Government and Gujarat High Court regarding religious conversion law in the state?

Section 5 of the Gujarat Freedom of Religion Act, 2003 requires prior permission from the concerned District Magistrate for any conversion done directly or indirectly.

Gujarat High Court has put a stay on Section 5 of the Act because it covered inter-faith marriages as instances of illegal conversion whereas the Gujarat government is considering to remove a stay on this provision and implement it.

As per the High Court, the prior permission requirement would force someone to disclose one’s religious belief or any change of faith. Which is contrary to Supreme Court rulings that say marriage and faith involve an individual’s choice.

Whereas, the Gujarat government argues that the prior permission in Section 5 is meant to prevent the need to question the genuine nature of the conversion in an inter-religious marriage and stay on it is affecting even genuine inter-faith marriages.

Why is Section 5 of the Act against the Freedom of Religion?

Freedom of religion is protected only when no questions are raised and no suspicion is entertained when an inter-faith marriage has taken place. Therefore, forcing someone to disclose an intent to change one’s faith violates Freedom of Conscience and the Right to Privacy.

What can be the course of action?

SC has observed that conversion through allurement or charity work is a serious problem in the country. This might provoke the central government to come up with anti-conversion measures on a national scale.

Further, any law that deals with conversion should be made judiciously that focuses on protecting religious freedom and communal harmony.

Print Friendly and PDF