Gujrat: Woman booked for converting her minor son to Christianity

Gujrat: Woman booked for converting her minor son to Christianity

Ashish Chauhan | TNN | Updated: Jan 24, 2020, 06:16 IST

AHMEDABAD: A single Hindu mother who had her son baptised at a local church in Anand almost eight years ago was on Wednesday booked under the

Gujarat Freedom of Religion Act

for converting her child without the district collector’s permission.

The police ostensibly acted on a petition filed with the Anand collectorate in 2013 by one Dharmendra Rathod, who runs an organisation called Forum for Peace and Justice. Rathod had challenged the then eight-year-old child’s baptism on grounds of his mother not taking her estranged husband’s consent or applying for the district magistrate’s clearance before going ahead with the conversion.

“The inquiry had been pending for about six years. Anand district collector RG Gohil concluded it on January 3, 2020, and ordered the police to register an FIR in the case,” Rathod said.

Collector Gohil told TOI that a Hindu parent getting her child baptised without official sanction was “a gross violation of the Gujarat Freedom of Religion Act”. The purpose of the Act, promulgated in 2003, is to prohibit conversion from one religion to another “by force, allurement or fraudulent means”.

According to rights activist Manjula Pradeep, the 42-year-old woman facing prosecution had visited a church on April 8, 2012, on her own and requested the Catholic priest there to arrange a baptism ceremony for her son. “No child can choose his or her religion — he or she adopts the parents’ religion, like in this case. The child can convert on becoming an adult; so there is no ground for filing an FIR against the mother just because she got her child baptised,” she said.

Petitioner Rathod claimed that since the child’s father and mother were both Hindus, his conversion to Christianity was subject to both parents’ consent and subsequent permission from the district magistrate. “The child’s parents married in 2001 and divorced in 2008. After learning of his son’s conversion, the father — a Hindu OBC from Uttar Pradesh — challenged it in a letter to the Union home ministry in 2013. The ministry directed the then chief secretary to look into the case, but no action was taken,” he said.

The FIR against the mother has been registered under Sections 3 and 4 of the Act. Section 4 prescribes imprisonment for up to three years and a maximum fine of Rs 50,000 for any violation of the law.

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