A Religious Freedom Bill passed by the Rajasthan Assembly in 2008, aimed at banning forcible religious conversions, is still awaiting the presidential assent. The State has requested the Centre to get the Bill cleared as early as possible, the Rajasthan High Court was informed on Tuesday.
The Bharatiya Janata Party government filed an affidavit in the court here in response to its notice issued last week on a habeas corpus writ petition seeking production of 22-year-old Aarifa, who has converted from her religion and married a Muslim youth. Ms. Aarifa was allowed to go with her husband.
A Division Bench of the High Court had raised questions about Ms. Aarifa’s conversion and the inter-faith marriage during the preliminary hearing on the petition on November 1. The court had asked the State government if there was any law or procedure in force in Rajasthan that governed conversions.
“People cannot change their religion based on an affidavit over a stamp paper of ₹10,” observed the Bench, comprising Justices Gopal Krishan Vyas and Manoj Kumar Garg, though it recorded in its order that Ms. Aarifa had denied that she was under threat or inducement by anyone.
In its reply affidavit, the State government said the Bill of 2008 had been “legally vetted” and was as per the constitutional provisions as well as the Supreme Court’s judgments. The government was in communication with the Centre to get the Bill cleared and the last request was made in June, stated the affidavit.