India is a country that made itself a secular state and ensures every citizen a right to profess any religion through article 25 that says – “all persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and right to freely profess, practice and propagate religion subject to public order, morality and health”. But some religious matters are left in the hands of state government too and thus, quite few states like Andra Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Tamil Nadu, etc., have adopted some stringent laws for regulation of matters related to religious conversion. Also, apart from all these rights, when it comes to one converting himself/herself into Islam in a Hindu majoritarian country it becomes a point of contention not just among social peers but among administrative authorities too. Because as mentioned above, in some areas and state, people need to take permission from district magistrate prior to taking a step that is totally allowed and protected by our Indian constitution.
But if just looked upon legal procedures, if one wants to convert himself/herself to Islam then he/she first need to perform shahada(read kalma) in a mosque in presence of a Maulavi(muslim religious scholar) and at least two witness. After performing the same, maulavi issues the certificate of conversion on mosque’s letterhead to the person mentioning all his/her details. After this, an affidavit stating that he/she converted to Islam and may adopt a new religious name. Further, an application along with this conversion certificate and affidavit needs to be submitted to government authority for publishing the same in official gazette of government which gradually gets published in some span of time, thus making legal formalities of conversion complete.
However, this trend of religious conversion from Hinduism to Islam has become a ubiquitous practice for men who wants to practice bigamy or polygamy. Since the provisions of Hindu law identifies bigamy and polygamy as a punishable offence, men resort to religious conversion to practice them. But it severely affects the rights of other spouse. One of the landmark case which upheld this issue was Sarla Mudgal Vs. Union Of India – the case had four petitioners and three of them were Hindu women whose husbands got themselves converted to Islam to marry some other woman. And one petitioner was the second wife of a man who was husband of one of the petitioner i.e., Sarla Mudgal. She presented that her husband signed an undertaking of converting himself back to Hinduism to take responsibility of Sarla Mudgal and their children but since she continues to be Muslim, she is left with no right to impose her and her child’s responsibility upon him. The other three petitioners raised the question of legality of such second marriage of their husband after adopting other religion. And keeping in mind rights of these petitioners and the religious chaos that is caused due to such practices, the apex court ordered that merely converting to other religion and marrying other women while the women married under Hindu rights is still alive doesn’t make second marriage after religious conversion a valid one. If a Hindu man is found practicing the same would be charged under section 494 of IPC. And also such second marriage would be considered ‘void’ by the law.
Thus, the existence of such practices demands a Uniform Civil Code(UCC) so that the rights and provisions of one religious law doesn’t overlap the rights and provisions of another religion. When everyone would be governed with single law, it would be easier to secure rights of everyone without trespassing the rights of any one religion. Such step would justify the word ‘secularism’ mentioned in preamble of India.
Thus, although India tries to give full freedom to everyone for professing any religion, there are certain practices and procedures that needs to be rectified to make their existence more prudent.
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