Conversion of girls to Islam solely for marriage not valid

Justice Surya Prakash Kesarwani of Allahabad High Court while dismissing petitions filed by five couples who sought “protection as married couple” ruled that the religious conversion of girls “without their faith and belief in Islam” and “solely for the purpose of marriage” to Muslim boys could not be held valid. In each case, the boys were Muslim while the girls were Hindus who got converted to Islam for solemnising “nikah”. In his order earlier this week, Justice Kesarwani quoted a Supreme Court order of 2000 wherein it was laid down that “conversion of religion of a non-Muslim without any real change of belief in Islam and only for the purpose of marriage is void”.

Supreme Court on Conversion of Religion of a non-Muslim to Islam

The principal question which came before the Court in Lily Thomas v. Union of India & Ors., was that, where a non-Muslim gets converted to the ‘Muslim’ faith without any real change or belief and merely with a view to avoid an earlier marriage or to enter into a second marriage, whether the marriage entered into by him after conversion would be void?

Court observed that, “in a pluralist society like India in which people have faith in their respective religions, beliefs or tenets propounded by different religious or their offshoots, the founding fathers, while making the Constitution, were confronted with problems to unify and integrate people of India professing different religious faiths, born in different castes, sex or Sub-section s in the society speaking different languages and dialects in different religions and provided a secular Constitution to integrate all sections of the society as a united Bharat.”

Further, “Religion is a matter of faith stemming from the depth of the heart and mind. Religion is a belief which binds the spiritual nature of man to a super-natural being; it is an object of conscientious devotion, faith and pietism. Devotion in its fullest sense is a consecration and denotes an act of worship. Faith in the strict sense constitutes firm reliance on the truth of religious doctrines in every system of religion. Religion, faith or devotion are not easily interchangeable. If the person feigns to have adopted another religion just for some worldly gain or benefit, it would be religious bigotry. Looked at from this angle, a person who mockingly adopts another religion where plurality of marriage is permitted so as to renounce the previous marriage and desert the wife, he cannot be permitted to take advantage of his exploitation as religion is not a commodity to be exploited. The institution of marriage under every personal law is a sacred institution”, and stated that, “where a non-Muslim male gets converted to the Muslim faith without any real change of belief and merely with a view to avoid any earlier marriage or to enter into a second marriage, any marriage entered into by him after conversion would be void”.

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