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Rajasthan HC lays down guidelines to check ‘forcible conversion’

by Bhavya DubeyDecember 16, 2017

The Rajasthan High Court on Friday issued guidelines to check alleged “forcible conversion” in the state. Violation of any of the guidelines will mean an inter-faith marriage would be void if a complaint is submitted against it.

Anyone who wishes to convert in Rajasthan shall give information “to the District Collector/SDM/SDO of the city and Sub-Divisional Area” before conversion, and the authority will put it up on the notice board the same day. The marriage is to be solemnised a week after the conversion. If the District Collector comes to know of any forcible conversion, they/he/she “shall take appropriate action in accordance with law, so as to check the forcible conversion”.

The guidelines were laid down by the court while disposing of a plea by a Hindu girl’s family who said she had converted to Islam under duress. Chirag Singhvi, 26, had filed a habeas corpus in the High Court, alleging his sister Payal Singhvi, 22, was forcibly converted to Islam and kept in illegal detention by Faiez Modi, 23, who had blackmailed her.

After hearing both sides, the court ruled that “two individuals are adults and they are at liberty to live their life as per their choice”. However, a bench of Justices Virendra Kumar Mathur and Gopal Krishan Vyas also issued the guidelines to check “forcible conversion”.

 The state government had submitted that the Rajasthan Dharma Swatantrata Act was passed by the Assembly on April 7, 2006, and sent for Governor’s assent. But the Governor, withholding assent, reserved it for the assent of the President of India. The Act has been pending since.

In his petition, Chirag had said that “nowadays the members of the minority community (were) targeting the girls of aged 16-17 years of Hindu and Jain community…”

A police investigation found that Payal’s conversion and subsequent marriage to Faiez was solemnised in accordance with the Quran by Maulvi Sayyed Mohiyuddin Ashraf who, “without any provision for taking affidavit”, still took an affidavit “so as to confirm the willingness of Payal Singhvi”.

Payal, now Arifa, had said in court that she is not in illegal detention. Appearing on behalf of the respondents, senior advocate Mahesh Bora had also said that Payal and Faiez knew each other for a decade before they decided to marry.After getting married this April, Payal continued to live at her parents’ house. However, according to her family, she was “missing” since October 25. The same day, Payal filed a complaint under wrongful restraint, criminal intimidation and other IPC sections, before an ACJM court, saying that she got married to Faiez “as per her free will” but “my father and brothers are harassing me and my husband continuously”.

Citing Articles 25 (Freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion) and 26 (Freedom to manage religious affairs, subject to public order), the court said, “It is the duty of the court under Article 226 of the Constitution of India to protect the fundamental rights of the citizen of every religion).”

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