Governor okays UP’s ‘love jihad’ law
Uttar Pradesh governor Anandiben Patel approved an ordinance promulgated by the state against forced and dishonest conversions, though there are fears that the law may also be used to target inter-faith marriages where one of the partners voluntarily converts.
The Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2020 came into effect on Sunday itself. It has provisions to check religious conversions carried out by “allurement, coercion, force, fraud, or marriage.”
The state cabinet cleared the law earlier this week, targeting what many right-wing outfits term “love jihad”, where Muslim men marry Hindu women with the aim of changing the latter’s religion after marriage. According to the ordinance, marriages where the intention is to change the woman’s religion will be declared invalid.
“Yes, the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance- 2020 has been promulgated,” confirmed additional chief secretary, Home, Awanish Kumar Awasthi.
Under the provisions of the new law, the violations have been made a cognizable and non-bailable offence.
The new law authorises the aggrieved persons’ parents, siblings or close relatives to file a first information report (FIR) for violation of the provisions of the ordinance.
The ordinance provides for jail term of up to 10 years in some cases for violators and treats forced and forced conversions as a non-bailable offence.
A government spokesperson 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 case of girls, who are minors or belong to the scheduled castes or the scheduled tribes, the imprisonment will be for two to 10 years with a minimum fine of Rs 25,000. In case of mass conversion, the law has the provision 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. Any person who counsels or convinces the other person to commit the offence will also invite punishment. And the burden of proof will lie with the accused.
UP’s move is likely to encourage other states that have spoken of a similar law -- Haryana and Madhya Pradesh are at the head of the queue -- to push through their own ordinances.
Starting now, in UP, anyone wishing to convert to another religion will have to give a declaration at least 60 days in advance to the respective district magistrate/ additional district magistrate and a violation will invite punishment of six months to three years with a fine of Rs 10,000. Any religious converter, who performs conversion ceremony, will have to give a month’s notice and violation will invite a punishment of one year to five years with a fine of Rs 25,000.
Under the provisions of the ordinance, 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. The converted person will have to make another declaration on the prescribed format within six months after conversion. The new law also provides for cancellation of registration of the institution/organisation violating the provisions and the person in charge will invite punishment as per the provisions of the new law. No government grant will be given to such institutions or organisations violating the law.