The Governor of Uttar Pradesh, Anandiben Patel has promulgated the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance 2020 (Uttar Pradesh Vidhi Viruddh Dharm Samparivartan Pratishedh Adhyadesh 2020) on November 28.
This comes four days after the Yogi Adityanath cabinet approved a draft of the ordinance curbing religious conversions only for the sake of marriage. This new proposed law provides for imprisonment of up to 10 years and fine of up to Rs 50,000 under different categories.
The preamble to the Act reads, “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.”
The important provisions in the draft bill are as follows:
1) Section 3 prevents any person to convert or attempt to convert, either directly or otherwise, any other person from one religion to another by misrepresentation, force, fraud, undue influence, coercion, allurement or marriage.
2) Section 5 penalises any kind of conversion by way of allurement, gift, gratification, easy money, material benefit, employment, free education in reputed school or better lifestyle, divine displeasure or due to coercion or fraudulent means.
3) Section 6 lays down that when marriage is done for the sole purpose of an unlawful conversion or when an unlawful conversion is done for the sole purpose of marriage, such a marriage could be declared null and void (on a petition presented by either party thereto against the other party of the marriage). The proviso to this Section states that all the provisions of sections 8 and 9 shall apply to such marriages.
4) Section 7 makes unlawful religious conversion a non-bailable and cognisable offence.
5) Section 8 provides for a procedure that needs to be followed by people who are voluntarily converting their religion. He/she shall give a declaration in the form prescribed in Schedule I at least 60 days in advance, to the District Magistrate.
Failure to do so will invite imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than six months, but may extend to 3 years and shall also be liable to fine. The DM will have to satisfy himself/herself that the Conversion is made voluntarily, if the permission is granted, then the concerned Priest, Pujari, Maulvi/Mulla, Padari shall inform the DM regarding the place and time of as to when he is going to convert a particular person.
6) Section 9 provides for the procedure to be followed once converted. the person is required to send a declaration in the form prescribed in the Ordinance to the District Magistrate. He/She has to state that he belonged to a particular religion and now he/she has converted to another religion. Failure to do so shall have the effect of rendering the said conversion illegal and void.
7) Section 10 prevents the State Government from providing any financial aid or grant to such institution or organization violating the provisions of this Act.
8) Section 11 categorises the parties to offences and holds people who abet/aid forceful conversion liable.
9) Section 12 puts the burden of proof as to whether a religious conversion was not affected 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.
In recent weeks, many states apart from Uttar Pradesh, like Haryana and Madhya Pradesh have revealed plans to enact laws to counter alleged attempts to convert Hindu women to Islam in the guise of marriage, which Hindutva activists refer to as ‘love jihad’.
The ordinance may be read here: