Saturday, 29 January 2022

Uttar Pradesh’s Unlawful Conversion Prohibition Ordinance

 Uttar Pradesh’s Unlawful Conversion Prohibition Ordinance

Introduction

In, 2020 The Uttar Pradesh Government enacted a law which makes conversion of religion non-bailable with up to 10 years of jail time if undertaken through misfortune, unlawfully, forcefully, allurement or other fraudulent means. The Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Religious Conversion Ordinance, 2020, referred to as the Love Jihad Law by the media was on spotlight and an agenda for the opposition party. The ordinance was passed amid media publicity and heated debate over Love Jihad. However, the law itself contains no mention of love jihad. The ordinance was passed days after the Yogi Adityanath government launched 'Mission Shakti', a campaign for the safety and security of women in the state. 

About the law

It states that any unlawful conversion or conversion by the means of fraud, misrepresentation, coercion, or marriage is prohibited. The F.I.R can be filed by the victim including his/her blood relatives, adoptive parents, and marital relatives. 

Punishment under the ordinance

If a general person (or other than mentioned below) is being converted without consent, the person guilty would be accused with a minimum fine of Rs. 10,000 or imprisonment for 1 to 5 years. 

If the conversion of Scheduled Cast, Scheduled Tribe, Minor, Women occurs, then the wrongdoer is to be fined with a minimum fine of Rs. 25000 or imprisonment for 2 to 10 years. 

If a mass conversion takes place that is 2 or more people, then the wrongdoer will be fined for Rs. 50000 or imprisonment for 3 to 10 years. 

If a person is a repeated offender, then he/she will be accused of double the punishment. 

However, this law is not retrospective in nature.

If any institution is found guilty of promoting such activities, their licenses may be cancelled and any state grant will be annulled.

Procedure of Conversion

The ordinance requires individuals (seeking to convert) and religious converters (who perform such conversions) to submit an advance declaration of the proposed religious conversion to the District Magistrate (DM). 

                 The declaration has to be given with a notice of 60 days by individual, 1 month by the convertor. On receiving both of the declaration, the District Magistrate (DM) is required to conduct a police verification or enquiry into the intention, purpose and cause of proposed conversion. 

              There is also a procedure for Post conversion requirement. Within 60 days of conversion, a post- conversion declaration is to be filed with the District Magistrate (D.M.) or Additional District Magistrate (A.D.M.). After this declaration, the converted person has to appear physically in front of the District Magistrate (DM) or Additional District Magistrate (ADM).    

Conclusion

 This law has attracted various opinions including criticism and support. Numerous experts have described the law as unconstitutional including former Law Commission chairman Justice A. P. Shah & former Supreme Court judge Madan Lokur.  The criticism is largely focused on denying the right to freedom of religion and restricting women's rights to choose their partner. 104 former bureaucrats have written an open letter to Chief Minister Yogi Adiyanath asking him to repeal the law. They alleged that UP "has become the epicenter of politics of hate, division and bigotry and the institutions of governance are now steeped in communal poison".


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