Kerala HC says govt can't question citizens' right to religious conversion by insisting on certification

The Kerala High Court has held that people don't need certificates from government-approved institutions in order to change their religions, holding that governments cannot question citizens' rights to convert to another religion.

As reported by The Times of India, the court made the observations while hearing a petition filed by Aysha, a 67-year-old woman from Perinthalmanna, who was born as Devaki, before converting to Islam with her son. The report said that when Aysha tried to fill out an application with the directorate of printing to notify her change of name and religion, she was asked to produce a certificate from a government recognised institution.

Representational image. Image courtesy: Highcourtofkerala.nic.in

Representational image. Image courtesy: Highcourtofkerala.nic.in

The court of Justice A Muhamed Mustaque said, "The right to profess and practice a religion is a Fundamental Right. One has the liberty to choose his own faith. The government, therefore, will have to act upon one's declaration as to the change of his faith or conscience. Maturity of such decision cannot be subject to any examination," it said.

Incidentally, the Kerala High Court had only last month lamented at the large number of "forced conversions" taking place, and said the police must take strong action against such conversion centres.

In fact, back in 2012, the court had even reversed the decision of an inter-faith couple to get married following a religious conversion, holding that conversion that takes place before a marriage will be considered invalid.

As reported by The Times of India at the time, a Muslim man and Hindu woman were married in a temple in Kaloor in December 2012. The marriage took place after the man converted to Hinduism, reportedly with the backing of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), which even issued him a conversion certificate.

However, the court refused to recognise religious conversion as a basis for marriage, instead asking the couple to register their marriage under the provisions of the Special Marriage Act.

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Updated Date: Mar 15, 2018 12:22:17 IST

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