Recently, a controversial ordinance was passed by the Government of Uttar Pradesh, this ordinance stated that “any unlawful conversion or conversion under fraud, coercion, misrepresentation or marriage is prohibited. The “Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance” was implemented on November 207, 2020. Under this ordinance, there is the procedure for undergoing religious conversions and some prohibitions on the unlawful conversion of someone’s religion.
According to the “Uttar Pradesh Vidhi Virudh Dharma Samparivartan Pratished Adyadesh 2020” [Prohibtion of unlawful religious conversion], A marriage will be declared “null and void” if the sole intention of marriage was to change a girl’s religion. And if it’s found that the conversion is done forcibly, through atrocity or cheating, the offense will be non-bailable.
Why this Ordinance Came?
Firstly we have to understand the back story of this, and why actually this ordinance was promulgated at all. You might have heard this in debates, social media, or might have just come across this on the internet about the term “Love Jihad”. This term has no meaning in Law nor it has been stated anywhere in the Consitution of India or any other Law in India. The term “Love Jihad” has been made up by the media or certain people who are its promoters.
So according to the Media, “Love Jihad” is - “When a Muslim man marries a woman of another religion (basically Hindu) and then forces the woman to change her religion and convert to Islam.” this whole ideology of marrying a person from a different religion and then forcing them to change to Islam is termed as “Love Jihad” by the Media.
There are two factions created by media on this topic of “Love Jihad”, the first says that this is clearly “Love Jihad”, and this is the tendency of Muslim men who are doing this to promote and spread their religion by doing such unlawful and forcible conversions. While the other factions believe that this is a clear case of “Fraud” and this has nothing to do with any particular religion at all.
Uttar Pradesh Unlawful Religious Conversion Prohibition Ordinance, 2020
The ordinance clearly states that any unlawful conversion (under the constitution) or conversion through fraud, coercion, misrepresentation, or marriage is prohibited. And the person who is making such conversion as per the aforesaid conditions will be held liable and will be prosecuted and punished.
As per matter of fact, this is not the first time any Indian state has passed an ordinance or law for unlawful conversion.
Laws against Unlawful Religious Conversion:
● Madhya Pradesh - 1968
● Himachal Pradesh - 2006
● Uttarakhand - 2018
● Uttar Pradesh - 2020
On this matter of Religious Conversion, there are certain pronouncements by the Courts in India also, and one of the most important case was the “Hadiya Case” of Kerela. The Shafin Jahan v. Asokan K. M. [2017 - Supreme Court of India]
The judgment on the Hadiya Case stated that matters of dress, food, idea or ideology, love, and partnership are central aspects of one’s identity. And neither the state nor the law can dictate a choice of partners or limit the free ability of every person to decide on these matters. The Court stated that the Right to choose a partner of your choice is a fundamental right of every citizen of the country.
It doesn’t matter who you are, and what your religion is, you can marry whosoever you want and of any religion. The morals and social values have their spaces, but these are not above the constitutional freedom guaranteed by the Constitution of India, stated the Supreme Court of India. So any law can’t stop you from changing your religion. As we have the freedom of religion and the right to life with dignity.
Very recently there were certain pronouncements by the Allahabad High Court, the judgment was passed under the case “Priyanshi @ Kum Shamren v. The State of UP”. In this case, the court held that the conversion for the basis of marriage is void. You can’t convert to any religion only for the stake of marriage, that’s not allowed, said the Court.
The important note for the above-mentioned case is that while Promulgationg this Ordinance the CM Yogi Adityanath Government, relied on the judgment of this case, and formed this ordinance.
What the Ordinance states:
● Any form of unlawful conversion or conversion through fraud, coercion, misrepresentation, or marriage is prohibited.
● If the reasons for conversion are as per the conditions mentioned above then that conversion is said to be unlawful according to this ordinance.
● The person who is forcibly or unlawfully converting the other person will be prosecuted and punished under this ordinance. This offense is non-bailable.
● The Victim can file an FIR, or the parents, brothers, or sisters, or any other person who is related to the aggrieved party by the way of 1. Blood 2. Adoption 3. Marriage. Can file an FIR for the aggrieved party.
● Punishments under this Ordinance
○ If it’s a normal conversion of a person to another religion which is unlawful in the eyes of law. The punishment can range from 1-5 years of imprisonment and a minimum fine of Rs.15000/-.
○ If a person who is unlawfully converted is a woman or he/she belongs to the community of SC/ST or a minor person, then the Punishment ranges from 2-10 years of Imprisonment and a minimum fine of Rs.25000/-
○ If there is a mass conversion done unlawfully. Mass Conversion [2 or more people], then the Punishment ranges from 3-10 years of imprisonment and a minimum fine of Rs.50000/-.
○ If there are repeat offenders, who are convicted again. Then their punishment would be doubled.
○ If a certain institution aids or directly converts people to another religion unlawfully, then the license of that institution will be canceled. And if that Institution used to get State Grants or aids, then all those grants will be stopped.
● If a person wants to convert to another religion must submit a declaration to the District Magistrate or Additional District Magistrate for conversion at least 2 months in advance.
○ Then it is the duty of the Magistrate or Additional District Magistrate to investigate and confirm with the police that the conversion happening is lawfully or unlawfully.
● The priest who performs the conversion ceremony will have to file a declaration with the District Magistrate or the Additional District Magistrate at least 1 month prior to the ceremony.
● After conversion, the person has to file a post-conversion declaration which is to be filed with the District Magistrate or Additional District Magistrate within 60 days of conversion.
● The converted person has to physically appear in front of the District Magistrate or Additional District Magistrate to prove his/her identity within 21 days of conversion.