Indian state set to introduce strict anti-conversion law

iStock/wael alreweie
iStock/wael alreweie

Rajasthan has drafted legislation to curb religious conversions considered illegal, aligning with several other BJP-governed states that have already enacted strict anti-conversion laws.  

In an affidavit submitted to the Supreme Court on Tuesday, the Rajasthan government acknowledged the absence of specific legislation on religious conversions in the state. However, it noted that it is "in the process of bringing its own legislation" to address the issue. Until this law is enacted, the state has committed to "strictly abide by the law on the subject, guidelines, or the directions passed by this Hon'ble Court."

This move is a response to a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay in 2022, which called for stringent measures against forced conversions, particularly concerning alleged mass conversions of socially and economically underprivileged individuals nationwide. However, the Supreme Court objected to certain derogatory statements about minority religions made by the petitioner in the petition and requested their removal. The court also replaced the petitioner's name in the cause title with "In Re: The Issue of Religious Conversion."

Get Our Latest News for FREE

Subscribe to get daily/weekly email with the top stories (plus special offers!) from The Christian Post. Be the first to know.

In addition to this petition, the court has combined it with other PILs challenging the religious conversion laws passed by Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, Gujarat, and other states. Recently, during the hearing of a different case, a Supreme Court bench noted that certain aspects of the UP anti-conversion law seemed to violate Article 25 of the Constitution, which guarantees religious freedom.

Rajasthan's decision aligns it with states such as Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, and Uttarakhand, which have implemented similar laws in recent years. These laws have faced criticism for infringing on personal liberties and targeting minority communities, particularly Christians. This has reignited a long-standing debate on the necessity of such measures to protect vulnerable populations from coercive or fraudulent conversions.

The state's affidavit marks a significant departure from the stance of the previous Congress government led by Ashok Gehlot, who had been a vocal critic of anti-conversion laws. Gehlot had argued that such legislations "will leave consenting adults at the mercy of state power," emphasizing the potential for misuse and the infringement on personal freedoms.

Rajasthan had promulgated an anti-conversion law in 2006 during the first tenure of former CM Vasundhara Raje's government, but despite being passed by the state assembly, it could not come into force for want of assent from the governor and the president. However, a set of guidelines issued by the Rajasthan High Court in December 2017 allows scrutiny and prior approval by the state machinery into interfaith marriages. The High Court had stated that until the state government enacted a law, the court had a duty to issue guidelines to "check the problem of forcible conversion of religion for the purpose of solemnizing marriage only."

There are at least ten states in the country where similar legislations on unlawful conversions are in force, including Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Uttarakhand, and Uttar Pradesh. The Uttar Pradesh government's law, infamously known as the 'love-jihad' law, prescribes a jail term of up to 10 years and a fine of up to ₹50,000 (US$597) for conversion under marriage, fraud, coercion or enticement.  

The controversy surrounding anti-conversion laws in India has a long history, with several princely states enacting such laws even before Independence to restrict missionary activities. Examples include the Raigarh State Conversion Act of 1936, the Patna Freedom of Religion Act of 1942, the Sarguja State Apostasy Act of 1945, and the Udaipur State Anti-Conversion Act of 1946. Specific laws against conversion to Christianity were also enacted in states like Bikaner, Jodhpur, Kalahandi and Kota.

The last attempt at a central legislation on this issue was in 1978 when the Janata Party government introduced the All India Freedom of Religion Bill in the Lok Sabha. However, the bill was never discussed and was subsequently dropped after the government fell in July 1979.

Originally published at Christian Today India 

Was this article helpful?

Help keep The Christian Post free for everyone.

By making a recurring donation or a one-time donation of any amount, you're helping to keep CP's articles free and accessible for everyone.

We’re sorry to hear that.

Hope you’ll give us another try and check out some other articles. Return to homepage.