Rajasthan HC issues guidelines to check forcible religious conversions for purpose of solemnising marriage

Rajasthan High Court: While deciding the instant habeas corpus petition, the Division Bench of G.K. Vyas and Dr. V.K. Mathur, JJ., laid down the following guidelines to check the problem of forcible conversion of religion:

· Any individual who wishes to convert to a particular religion will do so only when they attain the age of majority. The interested individual should also satisfy themselves with the minutiae of conversion to a religion.

· The authorities performing the ceremony of conversion should ensure that whether the person concerned is desirous to change the religion, is having full faith in the newly adopted religion. It should also be ascertained whether such person is acting under any threat or not.

· The person, who is desirous of conversion, shall give information to the District Collector/SDM/SDO of the city concerned before conversion, and the SDM shall put up the information upon the notice board of its office.

· The person, who has converted his religion from one religion to another religion, shall solemnize the marriage/Nikah after one week of such conversion of religion.

· If any marriage in the form of any nomenclature of any religion will be performed after conversion in contravention of above guidelines, then such marriage of any nomenclature can be declared voidable upon complaint of the aggrieved party.

· The aforementioned Guidelines shall be in force till the time Rajasthan Dharma Swatantrya Act, 2006 or any other Act governing the subject-matter came into existence in State of Rajasthan to protect the forcible conversion of religion.

As per the facts of the instant case, the petitioners alleged that the petitioner’s sister was abducted and was forcibly converted to Islam and under duress was married to the 2nd respondent (Faiez). The counsel for the petitioners M.R. Singhvi pleaded before the Court to declare the marriage illegal and that certain Guidelines maybe passed enlarging the scope of the petition and in accordance with the jurisdiction of the Court under Article 226 of the Constitution. The counsel for the respondent Mahesh Bora contended that the allegations leveled against the 2nd respondent are false and that the marriage took place with the consent and willingness of both the parties. It was also contended that scope of this petition cannot be enlarged so as to accept the prayer to issue guidelines in spite of the fact that Rajasthan Dharma Swatantrya Act has been enacted by the State Legislature, which is awaiting assent by the President. The learned Additional Advocate General SK Vyas representing the State Government stated that, the 2006 Act is still awaiting President’s assent and since the nature of the matter is serious, therefore the Court must issue certain guidelines so as to prevent forcible conversion of the people in general and girls in particular.

Perusing the contentions of the parties, the Court observed that every citizen has a fundamental right of freedom of religion under Article 25 of the Constitution, but at the same time, it is the duty of every citizen to protect the feelings of other religions and not act contrary to the provisions of Constitution. Therefore the Court deemed it appropriate to issue the aforementioned Guidelines.

The Court referred to Dwarka Nath v. Income Tax Officer, Special Circle D Ward, Kanpur, (1965) 3 SCR 536 : AIR 1966 SC 81 and Comptroller & Auditor General of India v. K.S. Jagannathan, (1986) 2 SCC 679 : AIR 1987 SC 537, where the Supreme Court had specifically mentioned that under Article 226 of the Constitution of India, the High Court has the authority to issue guidelines in the interest of public.

Furthermore the Court clarified that the petitioner’s sister and the 2nd respondent being adults are at liberty to live their lives as per their choices and the Guidelines issued will not affect their rights. [Chirag Singhvi v. State of Rajasthan through Police Commissioner, 2017 SCC OnLine Raj 3180, decided on 15-12-2017]

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