Gujarat Freedom of Religion Act Challenged

Justice M. S. Shah and Justice Akil Kureshi of the Gujarat High Court admitted a petition filed by Gujarat United Christian Forum for Human Rights, Mr. P. K. Valera (Retd. IAS), Dr. Hanif Lakdawala, Mr. Valjibhai Patel and Mr. Dwarikanath Rath, representing various human rights organizations challenging the constitutional validity of the Gujarat Freedom of Religion Act of 2003 and Rules of 2008 and issued notice to the Advocate General of Gujarat.
Senior Counsel Girish Patel with Advocate Shalin Mehta contended that the Gujarat Act by requiring prior permission of the District Magistrate before performing any ceremony of conversion or participating in such ceremony and by requiring any person converted to give intimation to the District Magistrate directly violates the fundamental right of freedom of conscience and freedom to profess, practice and propagate religion under Article 25 of the Constitution. The State under the Indian Constitution, being a secular State and guaranteeing freedom of religion cannot intervene in any case of free and voluntary conversion from one religion to another for granting or refusing permission.
Conceding that the Act may prohibit any conversion by force or fraud or allurement, it was contended that in the name of public order likely to be disturbed by forcible or fraudulent conversion, the State cannot regulate or control the free exercise of the freedom of conscience and religion. Any such Act will be beyond the legislative competence of the State.
The Counsel also pointed out the basic distinction between Gujarat Act and the Orissa and M.P. Act of 1967 and 1968 in respect of the requirement of prior permission required by the Gujarat Act and contended that the Supreme Court Judgment in 1977 upholding the validity of the Orissa and M.P. Act had no occasion to deal with the question of prior permission for even free and voluntary conversion. The Act also by insisting upon intimation of one’s own free conversion attacks the right to privacy, as question of faith is purely a personal and private matter.
The Act by making one’s conversion a matter of public notice and knowledge really aims at facilitating and encouraging the religious fanatics to take law into their hands to prevent even free and voluntary conversion. In the name of maintaining law and order, the Act will invite people to disturb law and order.
Mr. Patel further contended that the Gujarat Act really wants to prevent the dalits and adivasis from converting to another religion, thereby forcing them to remain in the Hindu fold. The Act is in essence a fraud upon the Constitution in the name of freedom of religion.
Sd/-
Girish Patel
Senior Counsel – Gujarat High Court, (Cell: 9825328663), 26th February 2009

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1 Comment

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One response to “Gujarat Freedom of Religion Act Challenged

  1. shubham

    what is the name of case or the citation of case wanted to read the petition

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