Himachal Pradesh’s Law Against Religious Conversion

Haryana Home Minister recently announced that his government is considering to make a law against forced religious conversions. The government has asked for the information about such a law that are already in force into the state.

Background

The Himachal Pradesh assembly had passed, in 2019, the Freedom of Religion Bill, 2019.

Himachal Pradesh anti-conversion law

The state had  enacted a law in 2007 that prohibits the conversion from one religion to another by force or fraud. In the line, during the monsoon session of the assembly in 2019, the chief minister of Himachal Pradesh Jai Ram Thakur introduced a more stringent version of this legislation.

What was the need?

The Chief Minister sought that the society has undergone many changes. There has been rise in conversions by fraudulent means. There is a concern that, this practice of forced conversion might erode the confidence and mutual trust between the different ethnic and religious groups.

What does the law say?

The law says, no person shall convert or attempt to convert any person from one religion to another either directly, forcefully, by undue influence, by any fraudulent means or by marriage. However, the Act does not cover a person re-converting to his “parent religion”. The law further says, any marriage done for the sole purpose of religion conversion may be declared null and void by a court if a petition is filed by either party. The act further states, anyone who wishes to convert to any other religion will have to provide a declaration to the district authorities at least one month in advance. The person must specify before the authorities that one is doing so as per his/her “own volition or free consent”.