UP cabinet passes ordinance against forced religious conversions, jail term up to 10 years for violators
In case of forcible conversion of minors or SC/ST women, the jail term will increase to 3-10 years and the fine would be increased to Rs 25,000.
Uttar Pradesh cabinet on November 24, 2020 passed the UP Prohibition of Unlawful Religious Conversion ordinance that makes forced religious conversions punishable with a jail term up to 10 years.
The ordinance makes forced religious conversion a non-bailable offence that will invite imprisonment between one and 10 years and fine stretching from Rs 15,000 to Rs 50,000.
The ordinance will also declare marriage being done for the sake of conversion as null and void. The ordinance will be promulgated after it receives consent from the Governor.
Why is the ordinance important?
According to UP government spokesperson Sidharth Nath Singh, the ordinance was necessary to maintain law and order in the state and to ensure justice to women, especially to those belonging to SC/ST communities.
The ordinance also fulfils the promise made by UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath to crackdown on forcible religious conversions amid a row over 'love jihad'.
•The ordinance was necessitated by the rise in cases of forced religious conversions under the pretext of marriage. More than 100 such cases have been brought to light before the government.
•The conversions were carried out through force, deceit, misrepresentation, undue influence, coercion, allurement or other fraudulent means.
•The ordinance lays down a jail term of 1-5 years and a fine of Rs 15,000 as a punishment for indulging in forced conversion.
•In case of forcible conversion of minors or SC/ST women, the jail term will increase to 3-10 years and the fine would be increased to Rs 25,000.
•In case of community mass conversion, the violator will face jail term between 3-10 years and a fine worth Rs 50,000 will be slapped on the organisation behind the move. The organisation’s licence would also be cancelled.
What will happen to willing conversions?
If someone willingly wants to convert for marriage then, he/ she will have to give two months notice in advance to the concerned district magistrate. If the person fails to do so then, the violator will invite a fine of at least Rs 10,000 and a jail term of six months to 3 years.
How will one prove it is not a forced conversion?
Proving that the conversion was not forced or done through deceit or undue influence will rest on the person who converted and the person who performed the conversion.
The Allahabad High Court order had previously declared religious conversion for the sake of marriage as illegal and unacceptable. However, a two-judge bench of the same court had later observed that the judgment was "bad in law".