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New Delhi: The Uttar Pradesh government has drafted a proposed law that seeks to make marriages null and void if they are found to involve forced religious conversion, ThePrint has learnt.

The draft ‘Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion Bill 2020’ is aimed at curbing the alleged trend of ‘love jihad’ – or an alleged conspiracy, often cited by BJP leaders, involving the conversion of Hindu women to Islam under the garb of love and marriage. Just days ago, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and at least three other BJP-led states promised to bring laws against the suspected practice.

The draft law, whose content has been accessed by ThePrint, has been formulated by the state’s home department and forwarded to the law department. The law, it is learnt, will soon be presented before the state cabinet.”

The proposal calls for five years of jail and a Rs 15,000 fine for forced conversion, including through marriage. If a woman is converted only for the purpose of marriage and someone files a complaint with police, an investigation will ensue, the draft law states. If the investigation finds evidence of foul play, the marriage will be dissolved. The draft also calls for 10 years’ jail for mass conversion. Conversion will be a non-bailable offence.

Talking to ThePrint, Justice Aditya Mittal, who heads the UP Law Commission – an advisory body to the state law department – said the proposed law includes no restriction on inter-religious marriage.

“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.

Referring to the absence of the term ‘love jihad’ in the law, Justice Mittal said it is used only in the “media, social media and the political spectrum”. “The Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion Bill 2020… does not treat religious conversion in terms of ‘Hindu-Muslim’ only. Instead, it is applicable to all religions,” he said.

Also read: We should be free to live, free to love & free to marry — that is the real idea of India

No mention of ‘love jihad’ in draft law

Among other things, the draft law seeks to impose imprisonment of two to seven years and a fine of at least Rs 25,000 in cases of forced religious conversion that involve minor girls or a woman belonging to a Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe.

For all kinds of conversions, the draft law states, it will be mandatory to provide information to the district magistrate one month in advance. Violation of this provision may attract a jail term ranging from six months to three years.

Talking to the media Friday, UP Law Minister Brijesh Pathak said the number of ‘love jihad’ cases had increased rapidly in the state, adding that this has led to social acrimony and disharmony.

On 31 October, the Allahabad High Court said religious conversion just for the sake of marriage was not valid.

Also read: India needs more and more inter-faith marriages, and laws need to facilitate that


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