The Haryana Cabinet on Tuesday approved the draft of The Haryana Prevention of Unlawful Conversion of Religious Bill, 2022, aimed at prohibiting religious conversions which are affected through misrepresentation, force, undue influence, coercion, allurement or by any fraudulent means or by marriage or for marriage by making it an offense.
The Bill would now be tabled before the Assembly, an official statement said.
According to the draft Bill’s statements of objectives and reasons “... the Constitution confers on each individual the fundamental right to profess, practice and propagate his religion. However, the individual right to freedom of conscience and religion cannot be extended to construe a collective right to proselytize; for the right to religious freedom belongs equally to the person converting and the individual sought to be converted. Still, there have been umpteen cases of religious conversions, both mass and individual. Obviously, such incidents have been hotly debated, more so in a multi-religious society, such as ours. The presence of pseudo-social organizations with a hidden agenda to convert the vulnerable sections of other religions. There have been in stances when gullible people have been converted by offering allurement or under undue influence. Some have been forced to convert to other religions.”
It pointed out that in the recent past, several instances have come to the notice that with an agenda to increase the strength of their own religion by getting people from other religions converted, people marry persons of other religion by either misrepresentation or concealment of their own religion and after getting married they force such other person to convert to their own religion. Recently, the Supreme Court also took judicial notice of such instances. “Such incidents not only infringe the freedom of religion of the persons so converted but also militate against the secular fabric of our society that conversion just for the purpose of marriage is unacceptable such incidents not only infringe the freedom of religion of the persons so converted but also militate against the secular fabric of our society,” it said.
The Bill provides for greater punishment for such conversions in respect of minor, women, Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes. It also provides for that the burden of proof as to whether a conversion was not affected through misrepresentation, use of force, under threat, undue influence, coercion, allurement or by any fraudulent means or by marriage or for marriage for the purpose of carrying out conversion lies on the accused.
Every individual converting from one religion to another shall submit to the prescribed authority a declaration that the conversion affected through was not misrepresentation, use of force, under threat, undue influence, coercion, allurement or by any fraudulent means or by marriage or for marriage and such authority shall make an inquiry in such cases. Besides, it provides for declaring marriages null and void, which were solemnized by concealment of religion.