Content

  1. Private space
  2. Double ignominy

Editorial: Private space

Context:

  • On November 27, 2020, the Uttar Pradesh (UP) Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2020 was promulgated by the state government. 

Relevance:

  • GS Paper 2: Historical underpinnings & evolution; Features, amendments, significant provisions, basic structure; Comparison of Indian constitutional scheme with other countries’

Mains Questions:

  1. What is anti-conversion law? To what extent anti conversion law violates the fundamental rights of people? 15 Marks

Dimensions of the Article:

  • Status of Anti Conversion law in India
  • UP ordinance on Anti Conversion law.
  • Procedure for conversion.
  • Prohibition on conversions.
  • Marriages involving religious conversion.
  • Punishment for unlawful conversions.
  • Issues Related to The Proposed Law.
  • Way Forward

Status of Anti Conversion law in India

The Constitution guarantees the freedom to profess, propagate, and practise religion, and allows all religious sections to manage their own affairs in matters of religion; subject to public order, morality, and health. 

  • To date, there have been no central legislations restricting or regulating religious conversions.
  • Further, in 2015, the Union Law Ministry stated that Parliament does not have the legislative competence to pass an anti-conversion legislation.
  • However, it is to be noted that, since 1954, on multiple occasions, Private Member Bills have been introduced in (but never approved by) the Parliament, to regulate religious conversions.
  • Over the years, several states have enacted ‘Freedom of Religion’ legislation to restrict religious conversions carried out by force, fraud, or inducements.
  • In November 2019, citing rising incidents of forced/fraudulent religious conversions, the Uttar Pradesh Law Commission recommended enacting a new law to regulate religious conversions.

UP ordinance on Anti Conversion law:

  • The Ordinance defines conversion as renouncing one’s existing religion and adopting another religion. It prescribes a procedure for individuals seeking to undergo conversions (in the state of Uttar Pradesh) and declares all other forms of conversion (that violate the prescribed procedures) illegal. 

Procedure for conversion:

  • The Ordinance requires individuals (seeking to convert) and religious convertors (who perform such conversions) to submit an advance declaration of the proposed religious conversion to the District Magistrate (DM).  
  • The declarations have to be given with a notice of:
    • 60 days by the individual, and
    • one month by the convertor. On receiving both the declarations, the DM is required to conduct a police enquiry into the intention, purpose, and cause of the proposed conversion. 
  • Once the conversion has taken place, within 60 days from the date of conversion, the converted person must submit a declaration (with various personal details) to the DM.
  • The DM will then publicly exhibit a copy of the declaration (till the conversion is confirmed) and record any objections to the conversion. 
  • The converted person must then appear before the DM to establish his/her identity, within 21 days of sending the declaration, and confirm the contents of the declaration.
  • Violating any of these procedures will render the conversion illegal and void, and will attract punishment of:
    • imprisonment between six months and three years, and a fine of at least Rs 10,000 (for individuals seeking to convert), and
    • imprisonment between one and five years, and a fine of at least Rs 25,000 (for convertors).

Prohibition on conversions:

  • The Ordinance prohibits conversion of religion through means, such as: (i) force, misrepresentation, undue influence, and allurement, or (ii) fraud, or (iii) marriage. 
  • It also prohibits a person from abetting, convincing, and conspiring to such conversions.
  • The Ordinance assigns the burden of proof of the lawfulness of religious conversion to the persons causing or facilitating such conversions. 
  • However, a person reconverting to his/her immediate previous religion is allowed. 

Marriages involving religious conversion:

  • Under the Ordinance, a marriage is liable to be declared void if it was done for the sole purpose of unlawful conversion, or vice-versa. 
  • However, a marriage involving religious conversion is permitted if the conversion is undergone as per the procedure laid down under the Ordinance.

Punishment for unlawful conversions:

  • The Ordinance provides for punishment for causing or facilitating unlawful religious conversion.  
  • Further, the accused will be liable to pay compensation of up to five lakh rupees to the victim of conversion.  
  • Additionally, repeat offences will attract double the punishment specified for the respective offence. 
  • All offences under the Ordinance are cognisable and non-bailable.

Issues Related to The Proposed Law:

  • Interfering With Secularism: Indian Constitution enshrines secularism as one of the cardinal principles. Despite this, several states have had anti-conversion laws for a long time, including Odisha, Arunachal Pradesh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh and Jharkhand.
  • Against Personal Liberty: According to Articles 25 to 28, an Indian citizen is guaranteed the freedom to practise any religion of his or her choice. Through this ordinance, the State wants to intervene not only in the citizens’ personal liberty by interfering with the choice of their spouse.
  • Asymmetrical With Various Supreme Court’s Judgment: The Supreme Court in Shafin Jahan v Ashok KM (2018), has upheld the right to marry a person of one’s choice as a part of Article 21.
  • According to the Supreme Court, the Constitution protects the ability of each individual to pursue a way of life or faith to which she or he seeks to adhere. Therefore, the right to marry a person of one’s choice is integral to Article 21 of the Constitution. Further, Supreme Court in K.S. Puttaswamy v UOI (2017) judgment held that “right of choice of a family life” as a fundamental right.
  • The ordinance is a conflict with these judgments as it limits the choice of a prospective spouse such that this spouse would only be one approved by the State.
  • Reverse Burden of Proof: The Uttar Pradesh anti-conversion ordinance allows any relative of the woman to challenge the legitimacy of her marriage. In this case, the reverse burden of proof would apply, wherein the person who facilitated the conversion would need to prove that it was not forced while disregarding the woman’s testimony of having consented to the conversion and marriage. This is a direct violation of the right to be deemed innocent until proven guilty; an aspect that is particularly worrying for women exercising their right to choose their life partners.
  • Patriarchal Roots: This shows the law has deep-seated patriarchal roots, wherein women are infantilised, placed under parental and community control, and denied the right to take life decisions, should those decisions not be agreeable to their guardians. Historically, marriage has been a tool to control women’s sexualities, promulgate caste lineage and stop women from exercising their autonomy. This communal propaganda does nothing to safeguard women’s rights, rather it further curtails their mobility, social interactions and freedom of choice.
  • Deep-Rooted Prejudice: This deep-rooted opposition to interfaith marriage is comparable to a similar deep-rooted opposition to inter-caste marriage, in that both stem from historical prejudices between specific communities. Recognising this prejudice, some members of the Sub-Committee on Fundamental Rights, especially the women members Rajkumari Amrit Kaur and Hansa Jivraj Mehta, advocated for the inclusion of interfaith marriage as a fundamental right.
  • They wanted to introduce a constitutional provision to require the state to remove any impediments to inter-faith marriages so that the social stigma against such marriages is removed.

Way Forward

  • Young Indian women of all faiths are increasingly seeking freedom — to work, study, marry who they choose and live life on their own terms. These basic rights must not be questioned or curtailed.
  • A woman’s agency is her own, and no parent, relative or state apparatus should be given the authority to coerce her. The attempt to rob women of their agency is an attempt to produce a docile female population that does as it is told, and does not rebel against societal and familial directives.

Editorial: Double ignominy

Context:

  • Second impeachment is an opportunity for Republicans to reassess the Trump presidency.

Relevance:

  • GS Paper 2: Comparison of Indian constitutional scheme with other countries’

Mains Questions:

  1. What is impeachment of President of a federal country? Discuss the difference between impeachment process of the President of India and USA. 15 Marks

Dimensions of the Article:

  • Procedure for Impeachment of President of US
  • Procedure for Impeachment of President of India

Procedure for Impeachment of President of US

  • US president can be removed from office for ‘Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanours’.
  • Only House of Representatives (lower house) can initiate impeachment proceedings.
  • Once this is passed with a simple majority, the process goes for trial.
  • Next, the Senate (upper house) is convened like a court, with both sides presenting evidence.
  • At the conclusion of these hearings, the President can be removed from office only if two-thirds of the Senate votes for it.

Procedure for Impeachment of President of India:

  • Indian President can be removed from office for “violation of the constitution” whose meaning is not defined in the constitution.
  • The impeachment charges can be initiated by either House of Parliament.
  • These charges should be signed by one-fourth members of the House (that framed the charges), and a 14 days’ notice should be given to the President.
  • After the impeachment resolution is passed by a majority of two-thirds of the total membership of that House, it is sent to the other House, which should investigate the charges.
  • If the other House also sustains the charges and passes the impeachment resolution by a majority of two-thirds of the total membership, then the President stands removed from his office from the date on which the bill is so passed.
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