The Uttar Pradesh (UP) Cabinet on Tuesday approved a draft ordinance that criminalises 'love jihad'. The new ordinance, that was fast-tracked, penalises "unlawful religious conversions" and "inter-faith marriages with the sole intention of changing a girl's religion" with a jail term of up to 10 years, depending on the severity of the cases.
Forceful religious conversion will attract a jail term of 1-5 years and a penalty of Rs 15,000. In cases where minors or women of SC/ST community are forcefully converted, the jail term will be 3-10 years with Rs 25,000 penalty.
Forced mass conversions provide for a jail term of 3-10 years with Rs 50,000 penalty. In case of mass religious conversions, the said social organisation's registration will be cancelled and strict action shall be initiated against them.
The development takes place even as the Allahabad High Court on November 11 upheld one's right to choose their partner and flew in the face of its previous decisions where it had held that conversion of religion for the sole purpose to marry could not be said to be bonafide or valid was "not laying good law".
"The way in which religious conversions are done using deceit, lies, force and dishonesty is heart-wrenching, and it was necessary to have a law in this regard," government spokesperson and cabinet minister Siddharth Nath Singh said.
An ordinance is a law promulgated by the President or the Governor on the recommendation of the Union or State Cabinet and has the same effect as an act. An ordinance is passed when the parliament/assembly is not in session. This allows the government to take immediate legislative action. An ordinance will lapse unless it is passed by the parliament/assembly within six months or by last day of the immediate parliament/assembly session.
Forceful conversions will attract jail term up to 10 years
According to the Uttar Pradesh Vidhi Virudh Dharma Samparivartan Pratishedh Adyadesh, 2020 (Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion Bill, 2020) marriage will be deemed to be null and void (shunya) if the "sole intention" is to change the girl's religion.
Religious conversions are allowed but according to the bill, "conversions done in violation of the provisions of the proposed law would have to face a jail term of up to 10 years." The offence will be non-bailable and triable by a first class magistrate if the conversion is found to be "forcibly, through atrocity or cheating".
"If someone wants to convert their religion after marriage, an application will have to be submitted to the district magistrate two months in advance. The conversion can take place if permission is granted," said Singh. Interfaith couples will also have to get the district magistrate nod two months before they want to tie the knot. A violation will attract jail term of six months-three years and Rs 10,000 fine.
Interference in a personal relationship, the encroachment of fundamental right: HC
The UP government's proposed law on 'love jihad' finds strength in a September 23 Allahabad High court order which held that religious conversion for the sake of marriage was unacceptable and that such a marriage was not said to be bonafide or valid.
However, A division bench of the high court on November 11 reiterated, the "right to live with a person of his/her choice irrespective of religion professed by them, is intrinsic to right to life and personal liberty."
"Interference in a personal relationship would constitute a serious encroachment into the right to freedom of choice of the two individuals. We fail to understand that if the law permits two persons even of the same sex to live together peacefully then neither any individual nor a family nor even State can have an objection to the relationship of two major individuals who out of their own free will are living together," the high court had observed.
'Love jihad', a colloquial term which is not officially defined under existing laws, refers to the alleged conspiracy by Muslim men who lure women into converting to Islam on the pretext of love or marriage. In the past two months, at least four other states—Assam, Karnataka, Haryana and Madhya Pradesh—have stated their intention to bringing in a law to stamp out 'love jihad'.
Updated On: 2020-12-01T16:20:30+05:30