EFFECT OF CONVERSION ON PERSONAL LAWS

Conversion of the spouse to other religion was just for the aim of circumventing the provision of Section 494 of Indian Penal Code, 1860. Conversion to Islam by a Hindu spouse does not per se lead to dissolution of the marriage. It only gives a right to the other spouse to file a petition under S.13(1)(ii) of the Hindu Marriage Act for divorce. Under the pristine Hindu Law as well, conversion did not operate per se as dissolution of marriage. A Hindu spouse who ceased to be a Hindu by conversion to another religion does not acquire any right under the Hindu Marriage Act. On the other hand, he or she exposes himself or herself to a claim for divorce by the other spouse on the ground of such conversion.

A Hindu undivided family (HUF) is governed by the Hindu Succession Act and, by law, Hindus who have converted to another religion can still claim their ancestral property. Previously, the conversion could be a clear reason to expel the converts from the ‘family’. Under the Caste Disabilities Removal Act, a person who has renounced their religion or been excommunicated from their religion would be protected by law. The descendants of a convert, however, do not have the right to such ancestral property, unless they are Hindus at the time of the succession.

STATUTORY PROVISIONS:

The effects of conversion from one religion to another under Hindu Law are described below:

(A) Law Applicable:

The effect of conversion from one religion to another on the law applicable to the convert was considered by the Privy Council in Abraham v. Abraham[1]. M. Abraham’s ancestors were. Hindus who were converted into Christianity. On the death of M. Abraham his widow brought the suit for recovery of his property. This suit was resisted by his brother F. Abraham who contended that his ancestors continued to be governed by the Hindu Law in spite of conversion. He accordingly claimed that he was entitled to the entire property according to the Hindu Law of survivorship applicable to a joint Hindu family.

The Privy Council held:-

(1) The effect of conversion of a Hindu to Christianity is to sever his connection with the Hindu family.

(2) Such a person may renounce the Hindu Law but is not bound to do so. He may elect “to abide by the old law, notwithstanding that he has renounced the old religion”

(3) The course of conduct of the convert after his conversion would show by what law he had elected to be governed.

Under the third principle it was found that M. Abraham had married a Christian woman who was born to an English father and a Portuguese mother, that he adopted English dress and manner. It was clear, therefore, that he had elected against the Hindu Law and so the defendant’s contention based upon the Hindu Law of survivorship was rejected.[2]

(B) Effect of Conversion on Rights of Inheritance in Family of Birth:

Under the Hindu Law a convert from Hinduism could not inherit to the Hindu relations. Similarly, under the Mahomedan Law a convert from Islam to some other religion is excluded from inheritance. This rule has been abrogated by the Caste Disabilities Removal Act, XXI of 1850. This Act is also called the Freedom of Religion Act. It has abolished the customary law which entails forfeiture of rights inheritance consequent upon conversion or deprivation of caste.

(C) Effect of Conversion on Marital Rights:

Conversion of one of the parties to a marriage has certain effect under the law applicable prior to conversion. If a Mahomedan husband renounces Islam and embraces another religion, the marriage is immediately treated as dissolved: If a Mahomedan wife embraces another religion, the same consequence followed under the Mahomedan Law but the law has been modified by the Dissolution of Muslim Marriage Act, 1939. Under that Act the wife can on her conversion seek a divorce on any of the grounds mentioned in that Act.[3]

(D) Effect of Conversion on Right to Main­tenance:

Under the Hindu Law conversion from Hinduism operates as a forfeiture of the right of the convert to claim maintenance (see s. 24 the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956). When the husband renounces Hinduism, his Hindu wife becomes entitled to claim a right to separate residence and maintenance from him Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act [s. 18 (2) (f)].

Conversion from Islam affects a forfeiture of the pre-existing maintenance rights. When the husband renounces Islam, the marriage is at an end and so maintenance can be claimed by the wife during the period of iddat.

(E) Effect of Conversion on Right to Guar­dianship:

The paramount consideration in regard to guardianship is the welfare of the minor. So, when the parent having guardianship changes his or her religion, it is a factor to be taken into account in considering the fitness of the parent to continue as guardian. This was decided by the Privy Council in Helen Kinner v. Sophia.[4]

CONCLUSION:

After a complete study on the Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act, 1956 we can say that, the Act believes in safeguarding the minors from being abandoned by their parents and also makes sure that no minor is deprived of a guardian or guidance unless the minor is capable of maintaining himself or herself. A mere guidance would make a lot of difference because most of the time minors are into trouble because of lack of guidance by a guardian. 

Conversion by one spouse to another religion is a valid ground for the other spouse to file a divorce petition. Conversion here means that the person has voluntarily relinquished his or her religion and adopted another religion after going through some formal ceremony. A husband or wife can file a contested divorce petition with the help of a divorce lawyer in India if the other has converted to another religion. Different personal laws in India state different provisions for divorce on the ground of conversion of religion.

REFERENCES:


[1] 1863 (9) MIA 195

[2] Kamuwati v. Digbijai Singh, 43 All. 525 (PC)

[3] Vilayat v. Sunila, AIR 1983 Delhi 351

[4] 14 МIA 309

Aishwarya Says:

I have always been against Glorifying Over Work and therefore, in the year 2021, I have decided to launch this campaign “Balancing Life”and talk about this wrong practice, that we have been following since last few years. I will be talking to and interviewing around 1 lakh people in the coming 2021 and publish their interview regarding their opinion on glamourising Over Work.

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