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    » 08/31/2012, 00.00

    INDIA

    Himachal Pradesh (partially) repeals its anti-conversion law

    Nirmala Carvalho

    The state's high court strikes down Rule 4 (obligation to notify the authorities within 30 days one's intention to convert to a religion other than Hinduism) as well as rules 3 and 5 (requiring the state to investigate conversions). For Card Oswald Gracias, president of Catholic Bishops' Conference of India, the ruling "upheld and protected the constitution" and recognised that everyone has "a right to choose his or her religion."

    Mumbai (AsiaNews) - In a landmark decision, the Himachal Pradesh High Court has struck down parts of the Freedom of Religion Act 2006, the state's anti-conversion law. Speaking to AsiaNews, Card Oswald Gracias, president of Catholic Bishops' Conference of India, said he was "very satisfied" because the ruling "upheld and protected the constitution" and recognised that everyone has "a right to choose his or her religion." More specifically, the High Court repealed Rules 3, 4 and 5 of the law leaving the rest in place.

    Rule 4 made it punishable for a person intending to convert not to give prior notice to the district magistrate 30 days before the ceremony. Anyone who failed to give prior notice would be fined up to a thousand rupees (US$ 18). Such a rule did not apply to people who wanted to "return" to his or her religion (i.e. Hinduism), usually in mass ceremonies organised by Hindu fundamentalists.

    Rules 3 and 5 (which are directly linked) required that the state investigate religious conversions, without defining when, how and who would investigate.

    "Local officials and administrations use such laws to torment and persecute people who want to exercise their freedom of conscience," Card Gracias told AsiaNews, "and have often been used for violent acts against minorities."

    "My hope," the prelate said, "is that the ruling by the Himachal Pradesh High Court will now set an example for other Indian states that have anti-conversion laws."

    Other states that have anti-conversion laws are Arunachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat and Rajasthan.

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    See also

    17/11/2006 INDIA
    New anti-conversion bill proposed in Himachal Pradesh
    The Indian Church is concerned by such a possible decision which would undermine the state's secularist traditions. The Bishops' conference reminds decision-makers about the Catholic Church's social action, which is not geared towards forced conversions but is intended to be at the services of one and all.

    15/01/2007 INDIA
    Muslim leader defends Himachal Pradesh Christians
    In an open letter to Sonia Gandhi, Syed Shahabuddin, a former lawman and president of the All India Muslim Union, wants the state’s proposed anti-conversion bill dropped because it is unnecessary and dangerous to the whole Union.

    06/10/2009 INDIA
    Love Jihad: luring girls online and forcing them to convert to Islam
    The High Court of Kerala asks the state police and the Interior Minister in New Delhi to investigate the forced conversion campaign dubbed "Love Jihad" and "Romeo Jihad." Young people attracted by promises of marriage end up in the hands of Islamic organizations. It is feared that there are over 4 thousand cases. For the boys who act as bait there is a reward of 100 thousand rupees.

    28/05/2007 INDIA
    New incidents of anti-Christian violence, protest rally set for Delhi
    In northern India Hindu extremist groups force a Catholic priest to flee and two Christian missionaries to convert to Hinduism. Christian communities organise rally in Delhi to protest against the rising violence.

    21/07/2009 INDIA
    Court overturns ruling ordering abortion on 19-year-old mentally challenged and orphaned woman
    The woman was raped by two security guards working in the government-run shelter where she was living. She is in her 20th week of pregnancy. Punjab and Haryana High Court ordered the termination of her pregnancy, arguing she could not raise the child and would treat him as a “toy”. The young woman said she wanted to have the baby.



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