Anti-Conversion Law in Uttar Pradesh: Here's all about 'The Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Religious Conversion law, 2020'
The Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Religious Conversion Law, 2020 is a law enacted by the Government of Uttar Pradesh, India. The Ordinance was cleared by the Uttar Pradesh State Cabinet on 24 November 2020 and received UP's Governor Assent on 28 November 2020 thereby becoming law.
Citation: UP Ordinance No.21 of 2020
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The Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Religious Conversion Law, 2020
1- Also known: Uttar Pradesh Vidhi Virudh Dharma Samparivartan Pratishedh Adhyadesh, 2020.
2- Aim: To provide for the prohibition of unlawful conversion from one religion to another by misinterpretation, force, undue influence, coercion, allurement or by any fraudulent means or by marriage.
i) Allurement- Temptation in the form of a gift, gratification, easy money or material benefit, employment, free education in any reputed school run by any religious body, better lifestyle, divine displeasure and so on.
ii) Coercion- To compel an individual to act against his/her will, using psychological pressure or physical force causing bodily injury or threat.
iii) Conversion- To renounce one's own religion to adopt another religion.
iv) Force- To threat someone in any way.
v) Fraudulent means- Impersonation of any kind-- false name, religion, surname and so on.
vi) Mass conversion- Conversion of two or more people.
vii) Minor- A person below 18 years of age.
viii) Religion- Any organised way of worship pattern, faith, belief, lifestyle prevailing in any part of India and defined under any law or custom for the time being in force.
ix) Religion convertor- Person of any religion who performs any act of conversion from one religion to another such as Father, Maulvi, Karmkandi, etc.
X) Undue influence- Unconscientious use of power or influence by one person over another to persuade the other to act in accordance with the will of the person exercising such influence.
xi) Unlawful conversion- Conversion which is not in accordance with law of the land.
4- Prohibition of Conversion from one religion to another: The law prohibits every person to convert or attempt to convert another person from his own religion to another by use or practise of misinterpretation, force, undue influence, allurement, marriage or by any fraudulent means and no one should abet, convince or conspire the said conversion.
It is to be noted that any person who reconverts to his/her immediate previous religion, it is not deemed to be a conversion under this law.
5- First Information Report: Any aggrieved person and the people related to the person by blood, marriage or adoption have the right to lodge an FIR against the said conversion.
i) Imprisonment- Whosoever contravenes this law will face at least one-year imprisonment which may be extended to five years.
Whosoever contravenes this law with reference to minor, woman or people belonging to SC or ST tribe, will face at least two years jail term which may be extended to ten years.
Whosoever contravenes this law with reference to mass conversion, will face at least three years jail term which may be extended to ten years.
ii) Fine- People carrying out the prohibited conversion will be liable to pay Rs. 15,000 fine.
Whosoever contravenes this law with reference to minor, woman or people belonging to SC or ST tribe, will be liable to pay Rs. 25,000 fine.
Whosoever contravenes this law with reference to mass conversion, will be liable to pay Rs. 50,000 fine.
iii) Compensation to the victim: The compensation payable by the accused to the victim of the said conversion shall be in addition to the fine and may extend to Rs. 5 Lakh.
iv) Offence by institution or organization: If any institution or organization violated the provisions of this law, the head of such organization/institution will face a jail term mentioned above and the registration of such organization/institution shall be cancelled. Also, no financial aid or grant will be provided to such an organization/institution by the State Government.
7- Marriage for the sole purpose of unlawful conversion or vice-versa: As per the law, any marriage will be declared void by the Court if it was solely done for the purpose of unlawful conversion or vice versa.
8- Cognizable and non-bailable offences: Notwithstanding anything mentioned in the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973; all the offences under this law shall be cognizable and non-bailable and triable by the Court of Sessions.
9- Declaration and Pre-report:
i) Any person who wishes to convert to another religion shall declare (in the form prescribed in Schedule-I at least sixty days in advance) that the conversion is with his/her free consent and without any force, coercion, undue influence or allurement.
ii) The religious convertor shall inform at least one month in advance about such conversion (in the form prescribed in Schedule-II).
The declaration and the notice mentioned in (i) and (ii) shall be given to the District Magistrate/ Additional District Magistrate.
Upon receiving the information, the said officer will conduct an enquiry to real intention, purpose and cause of the proposed religious conversion. If the proposed conversion contradicts the provisions of this law, it would be illegal and void.
iii) The person who contradicts the provisions of subsection (i) will face a minimum of 6 months jail term which may be extended to three years along with a fine not less than Rs. 10,000.
The person who contradicts the provisions of subsection (ii) will face a minimum of 6 months jail term which may be extended to three years along with a fine not less than Rs. 25,000.
10- Declaration Post Conversion:
i) The converted person shall send a declaration (in the form prescribed in Schedule-III) within sixty days of the conversion to the DM of the district in which the person resides.
ii) The converted person shall appear before the DM of the district within 21 days of filing the declaration to establish his/ her identity and to confirm the contents of the declaration.
11- Parties to offence: If an offence is committed under this law, the below-mentioned parties will be guilty of the offence and will be charged as if he actually committed the said offence.
(a) Whosoever actually commits the crime.
(b) Every person who does or omits to do any act to enable or aid another person to commit the offence.
(c) Any person who guides, convinces or procures any other person to commit the offence.
12- Burden of Proof: The burden of proof as to whether a religious conversion was effected 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.
During British Raj, some of the Indian princely states such as Kota, Patna, Surguja, Udaipur and Kalahandi passed laws against religious conversions in an attempt to preserve Hindu religious identity in the face of British missionaries. These laws are as follows:
A. Prior Independence
1- Raigarh State Conversion Act, 1936
2- Surguja State Apostasy Act, 1942
3- Udaipur State Anti-Conversion Act, 1946
B. Post Independence
1- Orissa Freedom of Religion Act, 1967
2- Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, 1968
3- Arunachal Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, 1978
4- Tamil Nadu Prohibition of Forcible Conversion of Religion Act, 2002
5- Gujarat Freedom of Religion Act, 2003
6- Himachal Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, 2006
7- Uttarakhand Freedom of Religion Act, 2018
Uttar Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, 2019 draft
In 2019, the Uttar Pradesh State Law Commission under Justice Aditya Nath Mittal compiled a report on unlawful religious conversions and proposed a draft titled 'to provide freedom of religion by the prohibition of 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'.
Love Jihad term
On 31 October 2020, UP's Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath announced that his government will pass a law to curb 'Love Jihad'.
Supreme Court on Marriage and Conversion:
1- The Apex Court of India in its several judgements has held that faith, the state and the courts have no jurisdiction over an adult’s absolute right to choose a life partner.
2- Intimacies of marriage lie within a core zone of privacy, which is inviolable and the choice of a life partner, whether by marriage or outside it, is part of an individual's 'personhood and identity'.
3- India is a 'free and democratic country' and any interference by the State in an adult’s right to love and marry has a 'chilling effect' on freedoms.
4- The absolute right of an individual to choose a life partner is not in the least affected by matters of faith.
Allahabad High Court's Judgement
In the 2014 judgement, Allahabad High Court stated that if conversion "is resorted to merely with the object of creating a ground for some claim of right" it would be "a fraud upon the law". This judgement was quoted by UP's Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath as one of the bases for the new law. However, the Allahabad HC later commented on the same judgement and overrode it, stating that it was "not a good law".
First arrest under Anti-conversion law
21-year-old Uwaish Ahmed was arrested in Barailley against unlawful conversion in Uttar Pradesh. An FIR was lodged against him by Tikaram Rathore (a resident of Sharifnagar village) in Deorania Police Station on charges of allegedly trying to coerce a 20-year-old Hindu woman to convert her to his religion and marry him, The Hindu reported.
Mr. Tikaram alleged that the accused had developed a friendship with his daughter during their education and wanted to 'coerce, coax and allure her into converting'.
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