On 27th November, U.P government issued a notification to promulgate the ordinance THE UTTAR PRADESH PROHIBITION ON UNLAWFUL CONVERSION OF RELIGION ORDINANCE, 2020 (vidhi virudh dharma samprivartna pratishedh adhyadesh), which aimed to control so-called love jihad cases in Uttar Pradesh.
Provisions of this ordinance are as follow—
MEANING OF CONVERSION UNDER THE ACT
Conversion prohibition section is Section 3, which provides that, No person shall convert or attempt to convert any person directly or otherwise, by misrepresentation, force, undue influence, coercion, allurement or by any fraudulent means or by marriage also no person abet, convince or conspire such conversion.
However, this section excludes those people, who reconvert to their ‘immediate’ previous religion. So, if any person converted previously from Hindu religion to Muslim religion or Christianity, and now if s/he wants to convert again to Hindu religion, then s/he will not come under the clutches of this ordinance.
But, this exclusion will affect only those people who have been converted to their ‘immediate’ previous religion. If any person converted to hindu religion and then s/he converted to the Christian religion, now if s/he again re-converted to hindu religion, this conversion will come under this ordinance but reconversion to Christianity will not because it will be her/his immediate previous religion.
This section uses an important word ‘allurement’ and ‘Fraudulent means, section 2 defines allurement as ‘offer of any temptation in the form of any gift, gratification, easy money or material benefit, either in cash or kind; employment, free education in reputed school run by any religious body; better lifestyle, divine displeasure or otherwise.
“Fraudulent means’ defined as “impersonation of any kind, either impersonation by false name, surname, religious symbol or otherwise.
WHO CAN FILE FIR AGAINST CONVERSION
Section 4 provides that if any person converted to other religion by any means as mentioned in section 3, in such cases, converted person’s parents, brother, sister, or persons related to him/her by blood, marriage, or adoption may lodge FIR against such conversion.
PUNISHMENTS FOR CONVERSION
Section 5 provides the punishments in three different categories;
FIRST, whoever contravenes the provision of section 3 will be punished with imprisonment which shall not be less than one year and to maximum five years with fine, not less than fifteen thousand rupees.
SECOND, whoever converts any minor, women or a person belonging to the scheduled caste or scheduled tribe to other religion in contravention of section 3 shall be punished with imprisonment which shall be not less than two years and may extend to ten years with fine which shall be not less than twenty-five thousand rupees.
THIRD, Whoever contravenes the provisions of section 3 in respect of mass conversion shall be punished with imprisonment which shall be not less than three years and may extend to ten years and with fine which shall not be less than fifty thousand rupees.
Section 5 not only provides punishment to the person who causes the conversion but also makes the provision for the compensation to victim by accused, which may extend up to five lakhs rupees with addition of fine.
Any person, who previously convicted for an offence under this ordinance if again convicted under this ordinance shall be liable for every subsequent offence to punishment double the punishment as prescribed under this ordinance.
MARRIAGE DONE FOR THE SOLE PURPOSE OF UNLAWFUL CONVERSION OR UNLAWFUL CONVERSION DONE FOR THE SOLE PURPOSE OF MARRIAGE
‘Love jihad’ mainly comes under the purview of this section. This section not only includes the cases which will be done after this ordinance but under this section, cases also include which ‘was’ done before the promulgation of this ordinance.
So, any marriage which was done for the sole purpose of unlawful conversion or unlawful conversion was done for the sole purpose of marriage, by the man of one religion with the women of other religion, either by converting himself/herself before or after marriage or by converting the women before or after marriage, shall be declared void.
But if any person wants to convert his/her religion for the sole purpose of marriage, s/he will have to give a declaration form at least sixty days in advance to the district magistrate or the additional district magistrate. In declaration form, s/he will declare that s/he wants to convert his/her religion on his/her own and with free consent, without any force, coercion, undue influence or allurements. And also, the religious convertor who performs conversion ceremony for converting any person of one religion to another religion, he has to give one-month advance notice of such conversion to the district magistrate or additional district magistrate.
The district magistrate after receiving the declaration form or notice will hold an enquiry which will be conducted by the police to know the real intention, purpose and cause of the proposed religious conversion.
And if any person will not follow the procedure as mentioned above, in such case, the purposed conversion will be considered illegal and void.
Person, who wants to convert, but s/he didn’t give any declaration form will be punished with imprisonment of not less than six months but which may extend to three years with fine which shall not be less than ten thousand rupees.
Religious convertor, who don’t give one month’s advance notice shall be punished with imprisonment which shall not be less than one year and may extend to five years and with fine which shall not be less than twenty-five thousand rupees.
This ordinance not only makes provision to give declaration form before conversion but also after conversion. The converted person shall send a declaration within sixty days of the date of conversion, to the district magistrate. After receiving the declaration form, district magistrate shall exhibit a copy of the declaration form on the notice board of the office till the date of confirmation. And this declaration form shall contain the requisite details, i.e., the particulars of the convert such as date of birth, permanent address, and the present place of residence, father’s/husband’s name., the religion to which the convert originally belonged and the religion to which he has converted; the date and place of conversion and nature of process gone through for conversion.
The converted person shall appear before the district magistrate within 21days from the date of sending/filing the declaration to establish her/his identity and confirm the consents of declaration.
In failing to follow the above procedure, such person’s conversion will be considered as illegal and void.
One of the important provision of this ordinance is section 12 which provides, the burden to prove that any conversion has taken place with free consent, will be on the person who has caused the conversion.
Most importantly Section 7 makes all offences as cognizable, non-bailable, and triable by the sessions court.
INTENTION BEHIND THIS ORDINANCE
No religion of the world and no law of any civilized country permits conversion forcefully and without free consent. But also every civilized country should not create hurdles to profess one’s religion and to choose any religion of his/her choice for the peace of his/her soul.
This ordinance is enacted especially to create the difficulties for religious conversion. U.P Government claims that the purpose behind this ordinance is to stop ‘love jihad’ cases.
But what does love jihad means? The basic idea of love jihad draws its origin from radical Hindutva, this concept popularized by right-wing of the country who considers that muslim boys first try to connect with hindu girls and then marry them with their conversion to Islam.
The purpose is also too caught up the Christian missionaries under the clutches of this ordinance, this is also the idea of radical Hindutva that Christian missionaries are trying to covert people especially people from lower class in Christian religion by offering many allurements.
No person should be allowed to let convert other people with force, undue influence or by any fraudulent means. But provisions of this ordinance are very problematic.
Basically with this ordinance, U.P government trying to stop any type of conversion in the state either done with the consent or without consent.
Section 4 empowers family members to lodge an FIR against the conversion of their family member, so every person who converted to other religion will have to defend its conversion, no matter if s/he was done so with free consent. Because our society is religious more ever patriarchal, if we exclude some limited highly educated and civilized parents, no parents want to see their children’s religious conversion to other religion and especially when it is about their girls, every such parent will lodge FIR, no matter their children converted with their consent or not.
Declaration in section 8 and 9 is problematic too, person who desire to convert and religious converter who perform mass conversion will have to give advance notice to district magistrate and district magistrate will direct the police to inquire the case, not only is this but he will also exhibit the copy of declaration form on his office notice board after the conversion, which will contain all information regarding that person. This is not enough, the converted person also have to appear before the district magistrate to identify him/herself. So basically with this complex procedure, U.P government don’t want to give any chance to any person for free conversion with his/her choice.
This ordinance prescribed such complex procedure to give work to such groups whose prime work is to beat and disturb those people who try to be converted in any other religion. The purpose to Exhibition of information to district magistrate’s notice board is to give information to such groups so that they can go and stop such conversion or pressurize him/her and his/her parents (if they have no objection) to let not convert their children in another religion, or to threaten religious convertor to stop such conversion. Thus, in such cases, will there be any value of free consent, right to choose, confess any religion?
There is also one other aspect of this ordinance, this ordinance makes provision to pay compensation to victim by accused. And this provision can be misused by people, they will pretend to convince to any religion, and after conversion, they or their family member can lodge FIR against religious convertor, and with the word “convince” (mentioned in section 3), they can establish that they would have converted illegally.
The last point is that a piece of law whose back itself is controversial can’t prove its purity of principles with the pure principle of our constitution.
Author: Arshi Hayat Gangohi, Department of Laws, Panjab University Chandigarh
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of ‘The-Lawmatics’.