U.P. Governor gives assent to ordinance on ‘unlawful conversion’

Legislation provides for penalties of up to 10 years in prison if conversion is found to be effected for marriage or through force

The Uttar Pradesh ordinance on unlawful conversion was promulgated after the approval of Governor Anandiben Patel, officials said on Saturday.

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The Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2020, was cleared by the State Cabinet earlier this week and promulgated on November 27.

The ordinance makes religious conversion a cognisable and non-bailable offence inviting penalties of up to 10 years in prison if found to be effected for marriage or through misrepresentation, force, undue influence, coercion, allurement or other allegedly fraudulent means.

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Violation of the provisions of the law would invite a jail term of not less than one year, extendable to five years, with a fine of ₹15,000. However, if a minor, a woman or person belonging to the Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribes communities was converted through the said unlawful means, the jail term would be a minimum of three years and could be extended to 10 years with a fine of ₹25,000.

The ordinance, passed by the State Cabinet, also lays down strict action against mass conversions, which would invite a jail term of not less than three years and up to 10 years and a fine of ₹50,000.

The court shall also grant appropriate compensation payable by the accused to the victim of said conversion, which may extend to a maximum of ₹5 lakh, said the ordinance.

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The ordinance says any marriage done with the sole purpose of “unlawful conversion or vice-versa” by a man of one religion with a woman of another religion, either by converting himself/herself before or after marriage, or by converting the woman before or after shall be declared void.”

One who desires to convert his or her religion shall give a declaration in a prescribed form at least 60 days in advance to the District Magistrate (DM) or Additional District Magistrate (ADM) that he or she wishes to convert on his or her own and with his or her free will without any force, coercion, undue influence or allurement. Violation of this provision could land a person in jail for three months to three years.

Any religious convertor who performs ceremony for converting any person of one religion to another religion shall give one month’s advance notice in a prescribed form to the DM or ADM. Violation of this provision would invite a jail term of one to five years.

The ordinance further said that the burden to prove that a conversion was not done through misrepresentation, force, undue influence, coercion, allurement, fraudulent means or for marriage would be on the person who caused the conversion or the person who facilitated it.

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