UP bans unlawful religious conversions with immediate effect
The Uttar Pradesh government has banned “unlawful religious conversions” with immediate effect as governor Anandiben Patel promulgated the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance on Saturday. The ordinance has stricter provisions to check religious conversions carried out by allurement, coercion, use of force or fraudulent means, and for marrying women with the objective of converting them to other religions.
The Uttar Pradesh cabinet approved on Tuesday the draft ordinance that prescribes up to 10 years imprisonment for those found guilty of such conversions.
The promulgation comes a month after Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath vowed to end “love jihad”, a term the Hindu right uses to describe marital relationships between Muslim men and Hindu women.
“…the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance has been promulgated,” said additional chief secretary (home) Awanish Kumar Awasthi.
The ordinance makes violations of its provisions cognisable and non-bailable offences. It authorises “aggrieved parents, siblings or close relatives” to file first information reports over the violations.
“If any person reconverts to his/her immediate previous religion, the same shall not be deemed to be a religious conversion,” says the ordinance.
An official spokesman said those violating the provisions may be punished with imprisonment of one to five years with a fine of not less than Rs 15,000. In cases of conversions of minors or those belonging to the scheduled castes or the scheduled tribes, the imprisonment will be for two to 10 years and a fine up to Rs 25,000. In cases of mass conversions, the ordinance provides for imprisonment of three to 10 years and a minimum fine of Rs 50,000. It provides for courts to award appropriate compensation with a maximum of Rs 5 lakh payable by the accused to the victim. If an accused, already convicted of an offence under the ordinance, is convicted again he/she shall face double the punishment.
Any person, who counsels or convinces the other person to commit an offence under the ordinance, will also invite punishment. The burden of proof will lie on the accused.
Any person willing to convert to another religion would have to give a declaration at least 60 days in advance to the respective district magistrate/additional district magistrate. Any violation will lead to a punishment of six months to three years in prison with a fine of Rs 10,000. Any religious converter, who performs the conversion ceremony, will have to give a month’s notice about such proposed ceremony and violation will result in one to five years imprisonment with a fine of Rs 25,000.
An inquiry will thereafter be conducted about the intention/purpose of conversion and the violation of this provision will have the effect of rendering such conversion null and void. A converted person will have to make another declaration on the prescribed format within six months after conversion.
The ordinance also provides for cancellation of registration of institutions/organisations violating its provisions.