Author : Shivangi Saxena
The ordinance was passed by the Uttar Pradesh State Cabinet on 24 November 2020 and followed by the assent of the Governor of Uttar Pradesh on 28 November 2020, the ordinance has come into effect throughout the state of Uttar Pradesh.
The aim of this ordinance, as its name clearly suggests, is to prohibit and criminalize unlawful religious conversions, that is, religious conversions brought about by coercion, undue influence, allurement, misrepresentation or by any fraudulent means or by marriage. Also, the ordinance is more popularly known as the ‘love jihad law’.
Though the ordinance nowhere uses the term “love jihad” and is religiously neutral but the background in which it was passed by the Government clearly indicates that primarily it is meant to curb love jihad. Love jihad is a conspiracy theory alleging that Muslim men target women belonging to non-Muslim communities for conversion to Islam by feigning love. [i] And curbing love jihad has for long been an agenda of the Yogi Adityanath’s Government in Uttar Pradesh.
Further, it is worth mentioning that the ordinance is being criticized widely as it is alleged to be violative of the fundamental rights to liberty and privacy under Article 21 of the Constitution and thus, to be in opposition of various judgments of the Supreme Court of India which have upheld that every individual has the right to marry a person of his choice and that marriage is a personal matter in which there should be no interference from the State. It is also being condemned as based on patriarchal thinking because it provides separate and enhanced punishment for unlawful conversion of a woman.
Provisions under the Ordinance
- Prohibition of unlawful religious conversions:
Section 3 of the ordinance prohibits religious conversions by force, undue influence, misrepresentation, allurement or any other fraudulent means or by marriage. Any attempt to bring about a religious conversion in any of the above ways is also prohibited along with its abetment, as well as convincing or conspiring an unlawful conversion is prohibited too.
- Punishment for infringement of provisions of Section 3:
Section 5 provides the punishment for unlawful conversions to be imprisonment for a minimum term of one year but which may extend up to five years and also a fine of fifteen thousand rupees. Further, if the unlawful conversion is with respect to a minor, woman or a person belonging to the SC or ST then the punishment is imprisonment for a minimum term of two years and may extend to ten years and a fine of twenty-five thousand rupees. And in case of mass conversions being done unlawfully, the punishment is imprisonment for a minimum term of three years and may extend to ten years and a fine of fifty thousand rupees.
Apart from the punishment, Section 6 provides that if a marriage is done for the sole purpose of an unlawful conversion or an unlawful conversion is done for the sole purpose of marriage, then the marriage shall be declared void. [ii]
- Filing of FIR and nature of offences under the law:
Section 4 provides the persons competent to lodge a FIR, regarding contravention of this law, are the aggrieved person and persons related to the aggrieved person by blood, adoption or marriage.
And according to Section 7 all the offences under this law are cognizable and non-bailable.
- Declaration before and after conversion:
A substantial provision of the ordinance is Section 8. It mandates that a person who wants to convert his religion shall provide a declaration to the effect that the conversion is being done with his free consent and there is no element of force, fraud, allurement, undue influence or misrepresentation. The declaration is to be made at least 60 days prior to the conversion, either to the District Magistrate or Additional District Magistrate and in the form prescribed under Schedule-I of the ordinance.
The religious converter, is also bound to give a notice regarding the conversion to the District Magistrate or Additional District Magistrate, at least one month prior to the conversion, in the form prescribed under Schedule-II.
And a person who fails to make a declaration before his religious conversion will be liable to undergo imprisonment for a minimum term of six months and which extend to three years, along with fine of not less than ten thousand rupees. The religious converter who fails to give notice will also be liable to the same punishment and a fine of not less than twenty-five thousand rupees.
Further, according to Section 9, a post conversion declaration has also to be sent by the person converted within 60 days of the conversion, in the form prescribed under Schedule-III and then has to personally appear before the District Magistrate or Additional District Magistrate within 21 days of filing the declaration and has to confirm the contents thereof. A failure to do so will have the effect of rendering the conversion null and void.
Another striking provision of the ordinance is Section 12 which provides that a religious conversion will be deemed to be unlawful until the otherwise is proved by the converter, that is, the person who has caused the conversion. So, the burden of proof is on the converter.
[i] Love Jihad, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Love_Jihad.
[ii] Arfa Javaid, Anti-Conversion Law in Uttar Pradesh: here’s all about the ‘Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion Law,2020’, Jagran Josh, (Dec,4,2020, 18:10 IST), https://www.jagranjosh.com/general-knowledge/the-uttar-pradesh-prohibition-of-unlawful-religious-conversion-law-2020-1607087652-1.