The anti-conversion bill presented by the BJP-JJP government to the Haryana assembly on Friday may prove to be ineffective legislation.
While legal experts pointed to flaws in the bill, opposition party leaders said the sole intent behind the enactment of the legislation was to polarize society.
The Prevention of Illegal Conversion of Religion in Haryana Bill 2022 seeks to prohibit religious conversions carried out through false declaration, force, undue influence, coercion, seduction or by any fraudulent means or marriage, making it an offence.
Cracks in the bill tabled
Digging holes in the document, legal experts said that aside from the question of constitutional validity, the inclusion of divine pleasure or promise in the definition of attractiveness makes the proposed law capricious and irrational. “People may adopt a particular religion for spiritual gratification or divine pleasure. A person claiming spiritual gratification from their religion and facilitating another person’s conversion may be subject to criminal prosecution under the proposed law,” a prominent lawyer said.
The state government’s legal secretary, who reviewed the bill in 2021, had raised several objections to the bill, saying it violated the constitutional regime of an individual’s liberty and privacy. ; against the constitutional regime in terms of the fundamental duties enshrined in Article 51-A of the Constitution, against the provisions of the Special Law on Marriage and contained several contradictory and legally weak provisions. The legal secretary in her note had also said that the definition of seduction conferred a vague meaning.
Also, the provision allowing an individual to revert to the religion professed by their parents and grandparents was described as arbitrary and biased by the Secretary of Law in her 2021 memorandum.
Legal experts have said that since the proposed law can only be applied in Haryana, those who intend to convert without going through the process under the proposed law can convert or marry in the territories of Haryana. neighboring union and in states like Chandigarh, Delhi and Punjab, where such a law is not in force.
Omissions in the bill
While the statement of purposes and motives of the bill speaks of a more severe penalty for conversions against minors, women, persons belonging to scheduled castes and scheduled tribes, the bill does not contain in fact no provision to that effect.
“It is an impractical and imperfect law. It provides for the filing of complaints by parents or siblings or a blood relationship, even if the conversion is of an adult. Third parties have no right to interfere in personal affairs. This is unconstitutional and infringes on his fundamental right. These are political games with no public interest,” a prominent Punjab and Haryana High Court lawyer said.
“The only purpose is to divide people on the basis of religion”
Congress General Secretary and Advocate Randeep Singh Surjewala said the intention behind the tabling of this bill was to advance the BJP’s agenda of polarization, division and hatred. “The bill is based on the dishonest intention to divide society on religious grounds. No one in this country can forcibly convert someone and the existing laws, including the IPC, have enough criminal penalties to deter anyone from doing so. This is the 11th state where such cut-and-paste bills have been passed, which are deeply flawed and unenforceable solely to serve the BJP-RSS agenda,” he added.
Commenting on the inclusion of divine pleasure or promise in the definition of attractiveness, Surjewala said it reflected that the Khattar government also had no understanding or comprehension of Hinduism or the very factum of Hinduism. conversion. “Godliness is divine pleasure and the mere mention of the word divine pleasure reflects a foolish and foolish understanding of God’s grace,” he said.
Rohtak Congressman BB Batra said the political agenda of the BJP was to create discord in society. “The bill is contrary to the basic structure of the Constitution. The government should provide comprehensive data on the number of religion-based conversions or mass conversions that have taken place in the state and if any FIRs have been recorded,” he added.