Religious conversion: Rajasthan high court makes district collector’s permission mandatory
Court also issues a 10-point guideline for religious conversions.
Jaipur: The Jodhpur bench of Rajasthan high court on Friday delivered a historic judgement on the controversial issue of religious conversion. It said that a religious conversion will be valid only when a prior approval is obtained from the district magistrate in the state. This permission will be granted when a request from the person seeking conversion is displayed on a notice board at the office of district collector for a week. People would be able to file objections over the conversion.
The court also issued a guideline that included provisions regarding inter-religious marriage. Such a marriage won’t be valid if it doesn’t comply with these guidelines in case it is challenged.
The judgement was delivered by the double bench of Justice Gopal Krishna Vyas and Justice Virendra Kumar Mathur.
The Rajasthan government had recently pleaded to the court to help it remove the ambiguity surrounding the legal status of religion change and inter-faith marriages. The issue was being widely debated in the legal circles since a case in which a brother challenged his sister’s marriage and conversion to Islam in the court came to the light.
The girl, Payal who adopted Islam and is now called Arfia, had married a Muslim boy. Her brother filed a habeas corpus petition in the court claiming that she was a victim of ‘Love Jihad’ and had been brainwashed.
While the court ruled in the favor of the couple, allowing it to live together since both were adults, it however said that it would continue to hear the matter of forced religious conversion.
“We are clarifying that this court is also cautious of the fact that Payal Singhvi and Faiz Modi are adults and this court deem it appropriate to declare that above guidelines shall not affect their rights as two individuals are adults and they are at liberty to live their life as per their choice,” the bench said.
“We are of the opinion that while protecting the fundamental right of freedom under Article 25 of the Constitution of India, some guidelines are necessary to check forcible conversion of religion because religion is a matter of faith and not of logic,” the bench of justices Gopal krishna Vyas and Virendra Kumar Mathur said.
The court allowed an adult person/people to convert to a religion of his or her choice with a condition that the individual should “satisfy himself/herself about niceties of conversion of religion”.
“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 made it mandatory for those wishing to convert to inform the district collector or sub-divisional magistrate who will, in turn, put up the information on the office notice board the same day.
The guidelines also make it mandatory for the newly-converted to solemnise the marriage after one week of conversion. The DM will take appropriate action under the law on information of forceful conversion, they said.