Impacts of Relegious Conversion on Property Rights

Aditya Pratap is a lawyer practicing in the Bombay High Court. He can be reached at aditya@adityapratap.com

Introduction 

Religion is a very sensitive and personal aspect of individual’s life and the constitution of India guarantees the freedom of conscience and religion to people of all denominations. 

Thus, a person is free to profess any faith or relinquish his faith of birth and convert to another religion. 

Hindu Laws 

The effect of conversion of religion to another can be described as follows: 

Conversion effect on martial rights: 

There are certain rules which are applicable when a party to a marriage converts to other religion. For example, if a Muslim husband converts to some other religion, the current marriage is said to be dissolved. Dissolution of Muslim Marriage Act, 1939 has modified the situation of a wife after conversion to other religion. 
The wife can now on her conversion seek divorce on any of the conditions mentioned in statue. Under Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 conversion of religion is a ground of divorce for both the parties. In other words, if a husband renounces Hinduism the wife can seek a divorce and vice versa under Sec. 13 clauses (1) sub –clauses (1) sub-clause (ii). 

Case law- Vilayat v. Sunila 1983 

In the case of whether a Hindu husband after conversion to Islam can seek divorce under Hindu Law, Justice Laila was of view that Personal law of the parties according to which marriage took place rules the rights of the parties as to divorce or dissolution. 
In the case when both the parties convert to Islam. The question that arises now is whether they can claim divorce under Hindu law. It was held in Khambaatta v. Khambatta that in such situation divorce by talak under Muslim would be more appropriate as both the husband and wife has converted to Islam. 

Conversion effect on Right to claim Maintenance: 

Under Section 24 of the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956 conversion from Hinduism restricts the right of convert to claim maintenance. But if a husband renounces Hinduism, his Hindu wife becomes entitles to separate residence and maintenance from him under Section 18 (2) (f) of Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956. 
In Muslim law, if a person converts to other religion, it affects a forfeiture of the pre- existing maintenance rights. When a husband renounces Islam, the marriage comes to an end and the wife can claim maintenance from husband during that period. 

Conversion effects on Guardianship rights: 

In guardianship court always looks upon the welfare of the child. As per Section 13 of Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act, 1956 welfare of the child is of paramount consideration. So, whenever the parents convert to another religion, this factor is taken into consideration while appointing person as guardian. If a mother converts to other religion, it does not affect her right to guardianship till the time her conversion does not come in between the welfare of the chi 

Impacts on Property as per different Religious Acts 

Hindu Succession Act 

A Hindu Undivided Family (HUF) is governed by the Hindu Succession Act and according to the law, Hindus who may have converted to any other religion can still lay claim on their ancestral property.  

The descendants of a convert, however, do not have the right over such ancestral property unless they are Hindus at the time when succession opens. Such a verdict was upheld in the Shabana Khan v. D.B. Sulochana and Ors. 2008, where the Andhra Pradesh High Court held that disinheritance as a result of conversion to another religion is only as regards children born to the Hindu after such conversion and will not apply to the convert. 

Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act, 1937 

According to the law, the biological son still has the right over his father’s property and the Caste Disabilities Act will come into force here. 

Even if the child was illegitimate or born out of wedlock, he would still be eligible to claim ownership over his father’s property. 

Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act, 1937 applies to all those families where both partners are Muslims. In case the marriage took place under the Special Marriages Act, the succession is governed by Indian Succession Act. 

Indian Succession Act, 1925 

Indian Christians are governed by the rules put forth in the Indian Succession Act and the only factor that is of importance in this regard is that the deceased should have been a practicing Christian. It is well settled in Christianity that the heirs’ religion is immaterial and the only material fact is that the deceased should have belonged to the Christian religion on the date of death. The rights granted to the biological child are not recognized for the adopted child. 

Conclusion 

In Hindu law a person who converts to another religion from Hinduism could not inherit from the Hindu relation. His/ her right of inheritance comes to end on conversion. Similarly, under Muslim law a convert from Islam to some other religion is prohibited from inheriting the property. The stated rule has been abrogated by the Caste Disabilities Removal Act, 1850. This provision can also be called Freedom of Religion Act. The above rule has removed all the disabilities pertaining to the conversion of religion. It is subject to other law made by the concerned authorities.

About the Author – Aditya Pratap

Aditya Pratap is a lawyer practising in Mumbai. He argues cases in the Bombay High Court, Sessions and Magistrate Courts, along with appearances before RERA, NCLT and the Family Court. For further information one may visit his website adityapratap.in or view his YouTube Channel to see his interviews. Questions can be emailed to him at aditya@adityapratap.com.

Cases argued by Aditya Pratap can be viewed here.

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