What is Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance 2020?
Why this Ordinance? [Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance 2020]
The preamble to the Act states – “To provide for prohibition of unlawful conversion from one religion to another by misrepresentation, force, undue influence, coercion, allurement or by any fraudulent means or by marriage and for the matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.”
Weeks after Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath assured to bring an “effective law” against “love jihad” the Uttar Pradesh Cabinet passed the Ordinance “Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance 2020 (Uttar Pradesh Vidhi Viruddh Dharm Samparivartan Pratishedh Adhyadesh 2020).”
Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath relied on High Court of Allahabad’s verdict in Priyanshi @ Km. Shamren and others v. State of U.P. and Another [Writ C No. 14288 of 2020],
wherein the High Court had dismissed a writ petition seeking police protection filed by a married couple and held that if the conversion has taken place only for the purpose of marriage then it is unacceptable. The bench, in this case, referred the judgment of Noor Jahan Begum @ Anjali Mishra & Anr. v. State of U.P. & Ors.
Notably, in Salamat Ansari v. State of U.P. & 3 Others Crl. Mis. Writ Petition No- 11367 of 2020, the Division Bench of Hon’ble Pankaj Naqvi,J.& Hon’ble Vivek Agarwal,J. of the Allahabad High Court while observing that the Judgment in Priyanshi @ Km. Shamren and others v. State of U.P. and Another [Writ C No. 14288 of 2020] followed the Judgment in Smt Noor Jahan Begum @ Anjali Mishra and Another vs. State of U.P. and others. [Writ C No. 57068 of 2014], noted that
“None of these judgments dealt with the issue of life and liberty of two matured individuals in choosing a partner or their right to freedom of choice as to with whom they would like to live.”
The Court further ruled that, “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.”
Significant provisions in the Ordinance [Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance 2020]
- Important Definition Clause
Section 2(h)-‘Religion’means any organized system of worship pattern, faith, belief, worship, or lifestyle as prevailing in India or any part of it and defined under any law or custom for the time being in force.
Section 2(a)- ‘Allurement’ means any gift, gratification, easy money or material benefit either in cash or kind, employment, free education in a reputed school run by any religious body or better lifestyle, divine pleasure or otherwise.
- Conversation and Punishment
Section 3- Prohibition of conversion from one religion to another religion by misrepresentation, force, fraud, undue influence, coercion, allurement or marriage
No person shall convert or attempt to convert, either directly or otherwise, any other person from one religion to another by use or practice of misrepresentation, force, undue influence, coercion, allurement or by any fraudulent means or by marriage nor shall any person abet, convince or conspire such conversion:
Provided that, if any person reconverts to his immediate previous religion, shall not be deemed to be a conversion under this Act.
Section 5- it provides punishment for the contravention of provisions of sec 3. It states that a person found guilty of offence under Section 3 will be punishable with imprisonment from 1 to 5 years and fine of upto Rs. 15, 000. A person previously convicted under section 3, if found guilty for a second time, will be punishable with the double the punishment prescribed.
On the other hand, Contravention of Section 3 with respect to a minor, woman or a person belonging to Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe shall attract a punishment of imprisonment between 2 to 10 years and shall also be liable to fine of upto Rs. 25,000.
Further, it provides that whoever is found indulged in mass conversion (while contravening the provisions of law), shall be punished with imprisonment which shall not be less than three years but which may extend to 10 years and shall also be liable to fine which shall not be less than 50,000. Also, the Court can direct the Accused to pay as compensation (up to rupees 5 lakh) to the Victim of such Religious Conversion.
- Who can lodge FIR?
According to Section 4, any aggrieved person, his/her parents, brother, sister, or any other person who is related to him/her by blood, marriage, or adoption may lodge an FIR of such conversion which contravenes the provisions of Section 3.
- Effect of Marriage in which Conversion is done for the sole purpose of marriage or vice versa
Section 6 states that any marriage which was done for the sole purpose of unlawful conversion or vice-versa by the man of one religion with the woman of another religion, either by converting himself/herself before or after marriage or by converting the woman before or after marriage, shall be declared void by the family court or where the family court is not established, by the court having jurisdiction to try such case on a petition presented by either party thereto against the other party of the marriage.
- Procedure for conversion
Anybody who wishes to convert from one religion to another has to go through the procedure laid down in Sections 8 and 9 of the ordinance.
- Wish to convert religion voluntarily [ section 8]
One who desires to convert his or her religion should give a declaration in the form prescribed in Schedule I at least sixty days in advance to the District Magistrate or the Additional District Magistrate specially authorized by District Magistrate, that he wishes to convert his/her religion on his/her own and with his or her free consent without any force, coercion, undue influence or allurement.
The Religious Convertor who is slated to perform the conversion ceremony should also give a one month’s advance notice in the form prescribed in Schedule II of such conversion to the District Magistrate or the Additional District Magistrate appointed for the same by the District Magistrate.
Thereafter, the police will conduct a police inquiry to ascertain the real intention, purpose, and cause of the proposed religious conversion.
A person undergoing religious conversion who violates Section 8 shall be punished with imprisonment between 6 months and 3 years and fine which is not below Rs. 10,000.
A religious converter who violates Section 8 shall be punished with imprisonment between 1 to and 5 years and fine which is not less than Rs. 25,000.
Section 9 lays down the procedure to be followed post conversion.
It mandates that a converted person should send a declaration in the form prescribed in Schedule III within 60 days of the date of conversion to the District Magistrate of the district within which the person ordinarily resides.
- Declaration post conversion [Sec 9]
The declaration should contain all requisite details including permanent address, place of residence, the religion to which the person originally belonged and the religion to which the person has converted.
The converted individual should then appear before the District Magistrate within 21 days from the date of sending of declaration to confirm the contents of the declaration.
The District Magistrate will record the contents of the declaration and the confirmation in a register maintained by him for this purpose.
Contravention of provisions of Section 9 will render the conversion illegal and void.
Section 10- The State Government shall not provide any financial aid or grant to such institution or organization violating the provisions of this Act.
- Burden of Proof
Section 12- The burden of proof as to whether a religious conversion was not effected through misrepresentation, force, undue influence, coercion, allurement or by any fraudulent means or by marriage lies on the person who has caused the conversion and, where such conversion has been facilitated by any person, on such other person.
The Former Supreme Court judge Justice Madan B Lokur criticized this Ordinance. The judge expresses the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance 2020, promulgated last week, as “placing on the backseat the freedom of choice and dignity”.
“States of Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Haryana, Assam are planning to come up with similar ordinances. The purpose of this law is to prohibit what is popularly known as love jihad”, he said.
“Although ‘love jihad’ has no definition, one chief minister has defined it as ‘Jihadis playing with the honour and dignity of our sisters and daughters by hiding their real names and identities’. Another chief minister went to the extent of saying that ‘if these Jihadis don’t mend their ways, it is the beginning of the journey to their graves’. Is this possible death sentence already pronounced sanctioned under the Constitution or by the law? This seems to be a resurgence of the trend of mob lynching…What about the freedom of choice? Why not declare a war on child marriage, which by definition is a forced marriage?”, wondered Justice Lokur. “Our carefully-crafted dignity jurisprudence which has been assiduously developed by the Supreme Court over years is being given a cremation of the Hathras kind”, he said
What is Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance 2020 ?