The Allahabad High Court on Monday observed that credible proof is required to show that an individual changing their religion has taken the decision voluntarily and an verbal or written declaration that a religious conversion has taken place is not enough to legitimise it, Bar and Bench reported.

Justice Prashant Kumar said that it is open for any individual to change their religion in the country. However, credible proof of the individual’s desire to convert their religion is required along with clear overt actions to carry it out, according to Bar and Bench.

Kumar made the observations while hearing a petition by a man to dismiss the case filed against him after he married a woman who belonged to a different religion. The petitioner had converted to his wife’s religion.

The petitioner had been accused by the woman’s father of kidnapping her and of criminal intimidation, rape and offences under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences.

Earlier, the court had ordered the petitioner to produce the woman’s high school certificate to ascertain her age.

On Monday, the court took note of the submission of a medical report that showed that the woman was not a minor when she married the petitioner. His counsel also told the court that he had converted voluntarily and that the couple had a child together following their marriage.

The court in its order said that a change in religion has to be notified to the concerned government authorities and should be reflected in an individual’s documents and identity cards. It also said that an affidavit to this end was mandatory.

“Thereafter, advertisement should be placed in the newspaper with wide circulation in that area, which ensures that there is no public objection to such change and it is also there to ensure that there is no such fraudulent or illegal conversion,” Bar and Bench quoted the court as saying. “The newspaper advertisement must specify the details like name, age and address.”

The court also said that a notification should be published in the National Gazette, which is an online record published by the Union government. “If the gazette application is filed, the department will inspect the application closely and once they are convinced that everything is in order, the religion change application will be published in the e-Gazette,” it noted.

The court said that it would take a closer look into whether the religious conversion was voluntary in the petitioner’s case or undertaken to overcome legal hurdles and other pressures.

It then listed the matter for hearing on May 6.

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