Conversion To Another Religion

As per the provisions of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 and section 13, various grounds for divorce have been given. Adultery, cruelty, conversion or apostasy, desertion, bigamy, incurable unsoundness of mind, virulent and incurable form of leprosy, disease in communicable form, renouncing the world, has not been heard of as being alive for seven or more years and non-resumption of cohabitation for one year or more after a decree of judicial separations are a few grounds for divorce which over a period of time have been recognized by Hindu law.

Conversion of one of the spouses to any other religion is said to be a valid ground to the other spouse for separation and it certainly affords certain matrimonial reliefs. Speaking in the same purview, conversion means that the person has voluntarily relinquished his or her religion, without anyone’s  force and has adopted another religion after going through respective formal ceremony. In cases, where a Hindu embraces a totally different religion, such as Christianity or Islam, he or she may be stated to be a convert and no more the practitioner of his or her former religion. In the famous case of Durga Prasad Rao v Sudarshan Swammi, it was observed that in every case of conversion or reconversion to Hinduism, a formal renunciation of religion or performance of expiatory ceremony is not an essential element or requirement. Speaking of which, whether the conversion or reconversion has taken place or not is a question of fact.

The Hindu marriage act has also proposed two requisites when conversion as a ground for divorce can be invoked.

The primary requisites are as follows:

  1. That the respondent has ceased to follow the faith of Hinduism, that is he is no longer a Hindu
  2. That the respondent has converted to another religion that is a non-Hindu faith.

The above mentioned ground for divorce has been given in the Hindu Marriage Act only for the purpose of circumventing the provision of S.494 of Indian Penal Code, 1860. The process of conversion to Islam by a Hindu spouse per se does not lead to divorce, but it may only give a right to the other spouse to file a petition for divorce under S.13(1)(ii). In some famous cases where a Hindu wife converted to Muslim faith and then married a Mohammedan, it was held that her earlier marriage with a Hindu husband was not dissolved by her conversion. She was thus charged and convicted of bigamy under S.494 of Indian Penal Code, 1860. In a case where a Hindu wife was fraudulently taken away of the accused a Mohammedan who married her according to Muslim law after converting her to Islam. It was further held that the conversion of the Hindu wife to Mohammedan faith did not ipso facto, dissolve the marriage and she could not during the life time of her former husband enter into a valid contract of marriage. As per the provisions mentioned above, the accused was convicted for adultery under Section 497 of Indian Penal Code, 1860.

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