Journal Articles

Evaluating India’s New Anti-conversion Laws


Comparative Constitutional Law and Administrative Law Journal

May 23, 2022

Religious conversions, especially with allegations of force involved, have continued to be an issue of concern among Indian state administrations since pre-independence. Following the Constitution of India coming into force, a specific right under Article 25 of the Constitution provided all persons with the freedom to profess, practice and propagate religion, the last of which has been the subject of much controversy. Early state legislations prohibiting “forced conversion”, which placed restriction on religious practitioners seeking to convert others, were upheld by the Supreme Court as reasonable restrictions on Article 25 of the Constitution on the grounds of public order in Rev. Stainislaus v. State of Madhya Pradesh.

A newer set of laws since 2000 has, however, sought to place additional substantive burdens on individuals seeking to change their religion and bring them under intensive surveillance by the State. Analysing a cross-section of these laws from different states, this article argues that these newer provisions are unconstitutional for three reasons: they are in excess of the restrictions permitted in Stainislaus, they violate Article 25 of the Constitution, and are not saved by the exception in public order. Additionally, these restrictions deeply infringe the individual’s right to privacy which had not been well developed in Indian jurisprudence at the time of the decision in Stainislaus, but is now clearly defined by a nine-judge bench in Justice K. S. Puttaswamy v. Union of India.

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