No Permission for Conversion: SC Judge

By Mohammad Naushad Khan
Justice Sathasivam while speaking on the occasion of the third Dr LM Singhvi memorial lecture on “Secularism and Rule of Law in India,” said that the state has the right to pass laws restricting conversions if such practice disturbs law and order and creates public disorder.
Citing example from the SC’s ruling in Stainislaus vs State of Madhya Pradesh and Orissa, Satasivam said, “The right to propagate means the right to ‘transmit and spread one’s religion by an exposition of its tenets’. But…there is no constitutional right to convert a person from one religion to another, because this would impinge on the ‘freedom of conscience’ guaranteed to all the citizens of the country alike.” Article 25 of the Constitution says that the practice of forced conversion is not only illegal, but unethical too. The right to freedom of religion is explained in Article 25: It allows every Indian the freedom to practice and preach any religion they choose to follow.
Recently, the Apex Court’s controversial remarks against religious conversions while upholding the conviction of Dara Singh was opposed by the civil society and thereafter the bench modified its judgement in the case. Most of the anti-conversion laws are brief and leave plenty of room, which can be misused on a case to case basis.
Earlier, various states passed Freedom of Religion Bill in order to prevent people from converting to Christianity. Gujarat passed anti conversion bill in the year 2003, Arunachal Pradesh in 1978, Madhya Pradesh in 2006, Chhattisgarh in 2006 and Himachal Pradesh in the year 2007.
This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-30 April 2011 on page no. 8
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