The Uttar Pradesh government has cleared a draft ordinance to check “unlawful religious conversions” and “inter-faith marriages with the sole intention of changing a girl’s religion”, with a provision for a jail term of up to 10 years.
According to Uttar Pradesh Vidhi Virudh Dharma Samparivartan Pratishedh Adyadesh 2020 (prohibition of unlawful religious conversion), a marriage will be declared shunya or null and void if its “sole intention” was to “change a girl’s religion”.
While passing the ordinance, the Yogi Adityanath government said more than 100 cases were examined before bringing in the stringent ordinance.
State cabinet minister Siddharth Nath Singh, giving details of the ordinance, said: “The ordinance provides for jail term of 1-5 years with Rs 15,000 penalty for forceful religious conversion. For conversions of minors & women of SC/ST community, there will be jail term of 3-10 years with Rs 25,000 penalty.”
In case of mass conversions done forcibly or through cheating, the jail term would range from three to 10 years, with a minimum fine of Rs 50,000
He also added that if a person wants to get married after converting to any other religion, he or she will need to take permission from the relevant District Magistrate two months prior to the nuptials.
The move came shortly after Allahabad High Court, while quashing an FIR lodged into allegations that a Muslim man kidnapped a Hindu woman and forcefully married her, said “two adults are free to choose their partner”.
It also noted its judgment in two earlier cases of interfaith marriage where it observed “conversion just for the purpose of marriage is unacceptable” were not “good law”.
After Madhya Pradesh and Haryana, Uttar Pradesh is the third state that announced the enactment of a legislation to check “love jihad”.
The process gathered pace after Adityanath during an election rally said those waging “love jihad” should mend their ways. He also invoked the Hindu funeral chant “Ram naam satya” to threaten “those who… play with our sisters’ respect”.