(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the High Court repealed Rules 3, 4 and 5 of the law leaving the rest in place.
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.
3 and 5 (which are directly linked) required that the state investigate
religious conversions, without defining when, how and who would investigate.
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."
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."
states that have anti-conversion laws are Arunachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh,
Chhattisgarh, Gujarat and Rajasthan.