Menu

Citizens for Justice and Peace

Curbing Freedom of Faith: India’s Anti-Conversion laws A Factsheet showcasing laws enacted by different states to curb conversions

26, Dec 2017 | CJP Team

The Indian Constitution grants every citizen the freedom ‘to practice and propagate his/her faith.’ (Article 25) Yet several states, currently ruled by the supremacist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have in place laws enacted to ostensibly stop ‘forcible conversions.’ This when conversion, by extension of Article 25 remains a fundamental right, at least on paper.

Arguably, the assumption in these laws that have a distinct majoritarian tilt, is that this country and its citizenry were and are primarily and intrinsically ‘Hindu.’ This when historical evidence suggests not only to the contrary but specifically that, the largest, mass, conversions towards any faith has been towards Sanatani Hinduism (over the millenia).

The 1960s were when these laws were first enacted. In 1968 in both Orissa and Madhya Pradesh when these acts came into being, the state governments were dominated by a pre-BJP avatar that of the Jana Sangh. The Congress had been voted out for the first time since independence. Subsequent governments however have not repealed these laws and the higher Indian courts, too, have upheld their legality.

It was in 1978 that Arunachal passed the law while Chhattisgarh adapted the MP law in 2006. Gujarat first passed the law in 2003 and tried to amend it in 2006. In the amended draft there was a clause that dubbed Jains and Buddhists as ‘part of the Hindi fold.’ This caused an uproar and had to be withdrawn by the state. Himachal Pradesh passed the law in 2006, followed by Rajasthan.

Anti-conversion laws have been intended to ‘stop’ people converting from Hinduism to Christianity. But, what they really do is infringe on the right of an Indian citizen to practice their religion as they see fit… and with it their right to free expression and their right to privacy – both of which are guaranteed by India’s federal Constitution.

Arguably, there s no need of a new law: India’s federal Penal Code, Section 295(A), already deals with the issue of sectarian harmony, and the use of coercion and, or, “allurements” for conversions. These laws command stiff penalties, ranging from fines to imprisonment.

The  BJP, India’s ruling supremacist party, is seeking to impose its Hindutva (Hindu nationalist) ideology in state law, so as to consolidate its political backing by those who vote for the party strictly for ideological-religious considerations.

In line with that type of thinking, the Jharkand state assembly (also dominated by the BJP) has now passed a new Bill is designed to make conversions more difficult because they will be made public – and, therefore, the convert may be subject to intimidation from his or her neighbours, family, colleagues, et al. Indeed, Section 5 of the Bill demands that any convert first seek the permission of the Deputy Commissioner of Jharkhand, and provide the details of the person who is performing the conversion.

Caste and Gender in Penal Provisions: In Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh the punishments in these laws are graver with respect to women, minors and SC/ST. Especially in Gujarat, where the imprisonment may extend to 4 years and the fine may extend to Rs. 1,00,000

Prior Permission: The States of Gujarat, Chhattisgarh (2006 Amendment Act) and Himachal Pradesh require Prior Permission to be taken 30 days before the date of conversion. The failure of which attracts an imprisonment and fine which may extend to 2 years imprisonment and Rs. 5000 in Himachal Pradesh, 1 year imprisonment and Rs. 1000 fine in Gujarat and 3 years imprisonment and Rs 20,000 fine in Chhattisgarh.

((Note: Orissa and MP, AP and Rajasthan do not require prior permission.))

Differences in Punishment: The punishment ranges from the maximum of 1 year and Rs 5,000 in some states (Orissa and Madhya Pradesh) to the maximum of 3 years and Rs. 50,000 in some states (Gujarat) for individuals that are not women, minors or SC/ST.

Punishment for failure of giving Intimation to District Magistrate/ Deputy Commissioner : In Madhya Pradesh Rajasthan and Arunachal Pradesh the imprisonment extends to 1 year and fine extends to Rs 1000.

In Gujarat, Chhattisgarh and Himachal Pradesh, the failure to make intimation prior to 30 days is punishable with imprisonment that extends to 1 years or/and a fine which may extend to Rs. 1000.

Terminology:

  1. Orissa, Arunachal Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh, use the term ‘inducement’.
  2. Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat and Rajasthan use the term ‘allurement’

 

Here are the laws enacted by a few states pertaining to restriction or control of religious conversion:

Anti-Conversion Laws in India

Odisha was the first state to enact a law regarding religious conversion. Orissa Freedom of Religion Act, 1967
  • Offence: is enumerated in S.3 of the Act à conversion by a) the use of force, b) inducement, c) any fraudulent means is prohibited
  • Punitive provision: S.4 of the Act à Imprisonment (which may extend to a year) a fine(may extend to Rs. 5000) or both
  • Proviso: In case the crime is committed against a i) woman, ii) minor, iii) SC/ST à Imprisonment (may extend to 2 years) and fine (may extend to Rs.10,000)
  • Nature of Offence: Cognizable
  • 6 à Prosecution to be made with the sanction of the District Magistrate or other officer not below the rank of Sub divisional officer.
  • 7 à State government may make rules for the purpose of carrying out the provisions of the Act.
On October 21, 1968, Madhya Pradesh became the second state to enact such a law. The Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, 1968 (also called Madhya Pradesh Dharma Swatantrya Adhiniyam, 1968)
  • Offence: is enumerated in S.3 of the Actà conversion by use of a)force, b)allurement and c)fraudulent means is prohibited
  • Punitive provision: S.4 of the Act Imprisonment (which may extend to a year) a fine (may extend to Rs. 5000) or both
  • Proviso: In case the crime is committed against a i) woman, ii) minor, iii) SC/ST à Imprisonment (may extend to 2 years) and fine (may extend to Rs.10,000)
  • Intimation of conversion (S.5) to be sent to the District Magistrate in whose district the ceremony has been performed. Failure of such intimation à imprisonment which may extend to a year and a fine which may extend to Rs.1000 or both.
  • Nature of Offence: Cognizable
  • 7 à Prosecution to be made with the sanction of the District Magistrate or other officer not below the rank of Sub divisional officer.
  • Amendment Act 2006 (Rejected by the President): A) The amendment to S.5 mandates the individual concerned to intimate in advance the District Magistrate in advance his intention to convert. The Priest conducting the conversion will also have to send an intimation to the District Magistrate (within 1 month stating the name and address of the converted and the date and venue of conversion). The failure of such mandate is punishable with a fine or/and imprisonment. B) Punishment: For an individual who inform DM à Fine amounting to Rs.1,000. For a Priest who fails to inform DM à imprisonment up to a year or fine of Rs.5000 or both.
  • The Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion (Amendment) Bill, 2013
  • Imprisonment up to 3 years or/and a fine up to Rs. 50,000.
  • For women, minors and SC/ST à Imprisonment may extend up to 4 years and fine up to Rs. 1,00,000.
  • Requirements of prior intimation by Priests and Individuals to the DM same as the 2006 proposed amendment.
Chattisgarh was created in November 2000, splitting from Madhya Pradesh. Chattisgarh retained the MP Act. Amendment Act, 2006 which has been passed by the legislature provides:
  • Punitive provision à imprisonment for a term which may extend to 3 years or/and a fine which may extend to Rs. 20,000 (s.4) [in place of 1 year and Rs. 5,000]
  • Proviso to S.4 à Imprisonment for a term which may extend to 4 years or/and a fine which may extend to Rs. 20,000 [in place of 2 years and Rs. 10,000]
  • Provision for prior permission (30 day period) before date of conversion. The district Magistrate may accept or deny the request after inquiry. Failure to comply with intimation requirements à Imprisonment which may extend to 3 years or/and a fine which may extend to Rs. 20,000.
  • Cognizable Offence
The Arunachal Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, 1978 (13th November, 1978)
  • Offence enumerated in S.3 à conversion by a)the use of force, b) inducement, c) any fraudulent means, d)abetment of conversion is prohibited.
  • Punishment (S.4) à Imprisonment which may extend to 2 years or/and fine up to Rs. 10,000.
  • Intimation of conversion to Deputy Commissioner of the district in which converted individual belongs. Failure to comply à Imprisonment which may extend to 1 year or/and fine up to Rs.1,000. (S.5)
  • Cognizable offence (S.6)
  • Sanction for Prosecution: S.7 à Prosecution to be made with the sanction of the Deputy Commissioner or other person authorized by him not below rank of Extra Assistant Commissioner.
  • 8 à Govt. may make rules for the purpose of carrying out the provisions of the Act.
Himachal Pradesh Freedom of Religion Bill, 2006 (bill unanimously passed by the Legislature of the state on 19 December 2006 and assent given on 20th Feb 2007) Himachal_Pradesh_Freedom_of_Religion-Act
  • Offence enumerated in S.3à conversion by a)the use of force, b) inducement, c) any fraudulent means, d)abetment of conversion is prohibited.
  • Intimation to District Magistrate of the concerned district with of intention to convert at least 30 days prior. Failure to comply à fine up to Rs.1000.(S.4)
  • Punitive provision (S.5) à imprisonment which may extend to 2 years  or/and fine up to Rs.5000
  • Proviso to S.5: in case of women, minor and SC/ST àImprisonment which may extend to 3 years or/and fine which may extend to Rs. 50,000
  • Offense is cognizable
  • Prosecution to be made under the sanction of the District Magistrate
  • Note: The SC in 2012 struck down the s. 4 provision which mandated a 30-day notice period for those who intended to convert to another religion.
Gujarat Freedom of Religion Act, 2003 ( 8th April 2003)
  • Offence is enumerated in S.3 of the Actà conversion by use of a)force, b)allurement and c)fraudulent means is prohibited
  • Punitive Provision (4)à Imprisonment for a term which may extend to 3 years or/and a fine which may extend to Rs.50,000
  • Proviso to S.4 à in case of women, minor and SC/ST àImprisonment which may extend to 4 years or/and fine which may extend to Rs. 1,00,000
  • permission to be taken from District Magistrate before conversion [S.5(1)]
  • Converted person must send an intimation as per rules to the District Magistrate [S.5(2)]
  • Failure to comply with intimation requisites attracts imprisonment which may extend to a year or/and a fine which may extent to Rs. 1,000 [S.5(3)]
  • Prosecution to be instituted with the sanction of the District Magistrate.
  • Cognizable Offence
  • Note: the 2006 Amendment Bill which classified Jains and Buddhists as denominations of the Hindu religion, Shias and Sunnis as denominations of Islam and Protestants and Catholics as denominations of Christianity was revoked by the Gujarat Government in March 2008. The withdrawal was a result of the backlash regarding considering Jainism and Buddhism as a denomination of Hinduism.
The 2006 amendment to the Act maybe be read here: Gujarat_Freedom_of_Religion_Act_amendment-2
The Rajasthan Dharma Swatantrya Bill, 2008 (Rajasthan_Freedom_of_Religion_Bill, 2006) was reintroduced by the BJP in Rajasthan after the 2006 Bill was denied assent by the then Governor Pratibha Patil who refused to sign the bill and later referred it to the then President APJ Abdul Kalam. The Bill was pending her approval once she became president.
  • Offence: is enumerated in S.3 of the Actà conversion by use of a)force, b)allurement and c)fraudulent means is prohibited
  • Punitive Provision: Imprisonment for a term 2 years or/and a fine which may extend to Rs. 10,000.
  • Intimation of conversion (S.5) to be sent to the Deputy Commissioner in whose district the ceremony has been performed. Failure of such intimation à imprisonment which may extend to a year and a fine which may extend to Rs.1000 or both.
  • Cognizable offence
  • Prosecution to be instituted with the sanction of the Deputy Commissioner
  • Caste and Gender in Penal Provisions: In Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh the punishments are graver with respect to women, minors and SC/ST. Especially in Gujarat, where the imprisonment may extend to 4 years and the fine may extend to Rs. 1,00,000
  • Prior Permission: The States of Gujarat, Chattisgarh( 2006 Amendment Act) and Himachal Pradesh require Prior Permission to be taken 30 days before the date of conversion. The failure of which attracts an imprisonment and fine which may extend to 2 years imprisonemnt and Rs. 5000 in Himachal Pradesh, 1 year imprisonment and Rs. 1000 fine in Gujarat and 3 years imprisonment and Rs 20,000 fine in Chattisgarh. ((Note: Orissa and MP, AP and Rajasthan do not require prior permission.))
  • Differences in Punishment: The punishment ranges from the maximum of 1 year and Rs 5,000 in some states (Orissa and Madhya Pradesh) to the maximum of 3 years and rs. 50,000 in some states (Gujarat) for indivuduals that are not women, minors or SC/ST.
  • Punishment for failure of giving Intimation to District Magistrate/ Deputy Commissioner
  • In Madhya Pradesh Rajasthan and Arunachal Pradesh the imprisonment extends to 1 year and fine extends to Rs 1000.
  • In Gujarat, Chattisgarh and Himachal Pradesh, the failure to make intimation prior to 30 days is punsihable with imprisonment that extends to 1 years or/and a finw which may extend to Rs. 1000.
  • Terminology:
  • 1. Orissa, Arunachal Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh, use the term 'inducement'.
  • 2. Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Gujarat and Rajasthan use the term 'allurement'

 

Related Articles:

1. Don’t Trample on Freedom of Faith: 12,000+ Sign Petition to Jharkand Governor

2. Dialogue with the deaf?

3. Observations and Recommendations about Continued Violence in Orissa

4.Hindu nationalism and Orissa: Minorities as other

5.BJP rule in Rajasthan: Going the Gujarat way

6. Saffron shrouds YKJ 2000 in Gujarat

7. Build-Up in Gujarat before 2002 through Segregation and Discrimination

 

 

Help CJP Act on the Ground: Citizens Tribunals, Public Hearings within Communities, Campaigns, Memoranda to Statutory Commissions, Petitions within the Courts. Help us to Act Now. Donate to CJP.

 

Leave a Reply

Go to Top