September 15 – Court in India Questions State’s ‘Anti-Conversion’ Law

NEW DELHI, September 15 (Compass Direct News) – The High Court of northern India’s Himachal Pradesh state on Monday (Sept. 12) questioned one of the many disputed provisions in the state’s “anti-conversion” law in a lawsuit filed by a Christian group. “One of the two judges immediately recognized that there should be no question of the district magistrate [administrative head] granting permission or conducting an inquiry into whether a person’s faith is genuine,” a representative of the Evangelical Fellowship of India’s Advocacy Department, the main petitioner, told Compass. The source quoted the judge, Justice Surjit Singh, as saying, “If I am dying and I want to change my religion, will I wait for some babu [official] to tell me I can do it?” The mandatory provision in the “Himachal Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act of 2006” to advise authorities of one’s intended conversion 30 days before one converts was one of the many clauses cited as being “contrary to law, arbitrary and against the basic tenets of jurisprudence” by the petitioners. At the same time, both judges seemed concerned about alleged inducements to convert, “and the biggest hurdle is to overcome this prejudice,” the source added. The court scheduled the next hearing for Sept. 26, requesting the state’s head attorney appear to before it. “We expect the court to hear both sides,” the source said. “However, a final ruling in the matter cannot be expected immediately.”