Syed Khalique Ahmed | India Tomorrow
NEW DELHI—Within days of the Gujarat Assembly having passed the Gujarat Freedom of Religion (Amendment) Bill, 2021 that prohibits religious conversion by marriage or aiding a person to get married, or by offering “allurement” in cash or kind, a “better lifestyle” or any type of material or other benefits like “divine blessings”, a police case has been filed against a Hindu youth for marrying a Muslim girl and converting her to Hindu religion allegedly by offering her material benefits and a “better lifestyle” that are considered to be punishable under the new law.
While such a marriage has been considered legally void under the new law, the persons involved in such marriages of a woman can be imprisoned for a period of three years which may extend upto five years and may also be slapped a fine of Rs. two lakh.
In his FIR filed on April 4, Arbazkhan Alaudddin Pathan, a resident of Vadodara, said that his elder sister Naznin, aged 29, worked in Isha Hospital in Gorwa area of the city for the last seven years. For the last several weeks, she appeared to be upset. When questioned, she told Arbaz that one Kalpesh Chauhan working with her was creating lot of problems for her.
As usual, she went for work on March 31 but did not return in the evening. Feeling disturbed, Naznin’s parents and brothers tried to call her on her cellphone. But the phone was found switched off and there was no response.
As Naznin had already told Arbaz about Kalpesh, Arbaz went to the residence of Kalpesh on April 1 to inquire about his sister. Kalpesh’s brother Gopal and their father Ashok told him, “Your sister has embraced Hindu religion and she is living with our son Kalpesh. There is divine blessing on our family. Our community has promised to arrange a separate flat and car for the couple. They have also promised to find a better job for Naznin”.
According to Arbaz, Gopal and Ashok told him that Kalpesh had made all the arrangements. “Even police can’t do anything in the matter”, Arbaz quoted the duo having told him. “I was then pushed out of their house”, alleged Arbaz in the FIR.
Arbaz alleged that Kalpesh and his family offered “better lifestyle” for his sister and claimed that his family was having “divine blessings” due to which they did not have any financial problem. “They converted my sister to Hindu religion through fraudulent means and giving her allurement of wealth which is illegal under the new law”, he alleged.
Arbaz has demanded annulment of the marriage and action against Kalpesh and his family members, including his brother, father and mother under Section 366 of Indian Penal Code and under amended Section 2 of the Gujarat Freedom of Religion Act, 2003.
According to Vadodara police, the couple had applied for their marriage under the Special Marriage Act (SMA) on February 20, 2021 and a notice was issued by the registrar of marriages to invite objections under Section 6 and 7 of the SMA. The marriage was solemnized and registered on March 22 after completion of one month as no objection was received by the marriage officer.
A senior advocate, who practices in the Gujarat High Court said that the Gujarat Freedom of Religion (Amendment) Bill, 2021, passed by the state assembly on April 1, 2021 but yet to be signed by the governor, is in violation of Article 25 of the Constitution guaranteeing freedom of religion which includes the right to convert and proselytize. He said that the Gujarat law also goes against the right to privacy guaranteed to every person under Article 21 of the Constitution as held by nine judges bench of the Supreme Court in K S Puttaswamy vs Union of India. He said that the government has no business in interfering with an individual’s personal choice to convert from one religion to another. He further added that the law goes against the right of adults, particularly women, to choose a partner of their liking.