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Anti-Conversion Laws in India

2022 AUG 25

Mains   > Society   >   Secularism   >   Secularism


  • Recently, The Himachal Pradesh assembly passed the Himachal Pradesh Freedom of Religion (Amendment) Bill, 2022, forbidding “mass conversion” and enhancing maximum punishment up to 10 years.


  • The Bill amends Himachal Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act-2019, which was enacted with a view to provide freedom of religion by prohibition of conversion from one religion to another by misrepresentation, force, undue influence, coercion, inducement or any other fraudulent means or by marriage and for matters connected therewith. However, no provisions for mass conversions were given in the Act.
  • Key provisions of the amendment bill:
    • The Bill inserts the reference to “mass conversion”, which is described as two or more people converting at the same time, in the 2019 Act.
    • As per the bill, whosoever contravenes the provisions of Section 3 in respect of mass conversion shall be punished with imprisonment for a term, which shall not be less than five years, but which may extend to ten years.
      • The person accused of carrying out mass conversions will also be liable for a fine upto Rs 1.5 lakh.
      • If a person is found to be accused of a second offence of the same nature, the quantum of prison may extend to a minimum of seven years and a maximum of ten years.
    • The Bill further provides that if a person conceals his religion while marrying someone from another religion, he/she shall be punished with imprisonment for a term, which shall not be less than three years, but which may extend to ten years.
      • The person will also be liable to a fine which shall not be less than Rs 50,000 and also may extend to Rs 1 lakh.


  • Fear of change in demography:
    • Anti-conversion laws are considered a remedial measure to the problem of conversion which is considered as a way to bring demographic change.
  • Not blanket ban on prohibition:
    • The laws are not brought to stop the conversion but are intended to prohibit conversions that are effectuated by force, inducement, or fraud.
    • Supporter of these laws argue that since present instances of such conversions are high, these laws are designed to criminalise such activities.
  • Strengthens religious freedom:
    • Since they provide stringent provisions for forced or induced conversion, they are considered as necessary safeguards for the protection of religious freedom, a right guaranteed both constitutionally and in international human rights instruments.
    • The freedom given in the Article 25 of Indian Constitution is not absolute but subject to the restrictions as public order, health, morality, and other fundamental rights. India’s legal dispensation only recognizes the conversion which is not done with inducement or threat.
  • Constituent assembly debates:
    • During Constituent Assembly debates, Sardar Patel had expressed concern about forceful conversion which later became as the moral base of anti-conversion laws in India.
    • Another member Ananthasayanam Ayyangar had proposed that conversion should be banned and conversion only on oath before a judge should be permitted.


  • Burden of proof:
    • The burden of proof that the conversion was ‘lawful’ lies on the person who has ‘caused’ the conversion and where such conversion has been facilitated by any person, on such other person.
    • Thus, laws reportedly focus more on prosecuting the ‘convertor’ and opinion of the person who has converted is considered less.
  • Lack of equitable treatment:
    • It is argued that the anti-conversion laws both by their design and implementation infringe, upon the individual’s right to convert and may favour one religion over other.
  • Creates an atmosphere of fear:
    • Reports suggest that though there are very rare instances of prosecution or arrest under anti-conversion laws, but they create the atmosphere of fear amongst the couples willing to do inter-faith marriages.
    • There have been reports regarding incidents of arrest of some minority leaders under these anti-conversion laws.
  • Vague nature and wide scope:
    • The terms used in such laws like force, fraud, allurement etc. are loosely defined, leaving wide scope for misuse.
    • The misreading of laws could result in instances of physical attacks following accusations of wrongful conversions. They are also believed to deepen communal fault lines.
  • Against freedom of religion:
    • Religion or spirituality is the most integral part of human nature and thus any undue ban on it can be a gross violation of human rights.
    • Several important international documents recognize the concept of freedom of religion like Article 18 of the Universal declaration of human rights and Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).
    • They are also antithetical to the freedoms granted by provisions in the Special Marriage Act under which persons belonging to two different religions get married.
    • They also raise concerns about the privacy of individuals who wish to adopt other religions and the liberty of an individual to choose a partner from another religion.

For extra reading on the topic:


Q. “The anti-conversion laws disrespect and violate the foundational ideals of the Indian Constitution: liberty, equality and freedom”. Critically analyse.