Lucknow: The Yogi Adityanath government in Uttar Pradesh Tuesday approved an ordinance to deal with unlawful religious conversions.
The decision to approve the ordinance, ‘Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion Bill 2020’, was taken by Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath at a cabinet meeting, said government spokesperson and state minister Siddharth Nath Singh.
The ordinance provides for an imprisonment of 1-10 years and a fine of Rs 15,000 to Rs 50,000 under different categories.
“Today, the Uttar Pradesh cabinet decided to introduce an ordinance against unlawful religious conversions. More than 100 cases of ‘love jihad’ have been reported in the last few months in Uttar Pradesh, so we are bringing an ordinance against these unlawful religious conversions. Soon action will be taken against such cases,” Singh told reporters after the meeting.
Deputy CM Keshav Maurya told the media they have discussed all the technical aspects of the bill with the state law commission. “This law is much needed in the state,” he added.
The move comes days after the Allahabad High Court upheld the right to freedom of choice of individuals and even observed that its earlier judgments in two previous cases of interfaith marriages — where it had noted religious conversion solely for the purpose of a marriage was prohibited — were incorrect and did not lay down “good law”.
1-10 years jail, Rs 50,000 fine
According to government officials, the ordinance provides for one to 5 years of jail term with a minimum fine of Rs 15,000 for forced conversion, and 3-10 years of prison for conversion of minors and women from SC/ST community.
For forced mass conversions, the bill provides for a jail term of 3-10 years and Rs 50,000 penalty, the officials said.
This apart, interfaith couples, who want to get married, will need to approach and inform the district magistrates two months in advance. Any violation of this will attract 6 months to 3 years of jail term and Rs 10,000 fine.
Marriages could also be declared null and void if they are found to have involved forced religious conversions, added the officials.
Talking to ThePrint earlier, Justice Aditya Mittal (retired), who heads the Uttar Pradesh Law Commission — an advisory body to the state law department — said the proposed law includes no restriction on inter-religious marriages.
“It only proposes that religious conversion by force, or by giving inducement or by facilitating conversion through marriages, should be included in the category of crime. Under this law, religious conversion is allowed, but conversion by force or through any kind of inducement is not,” he said.