LUCKNOW: Uttar Pradesh Governor Anandiben Patel on Saturday gave assent to an ordinance against forcible or fraudulent religious conversions that provides for imprisonment up to 10 years and a maximum fine of Rs 50,000 under different categories.
The promulgation of the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2020, came four days after the Yogi Adityanath Government had approved the draft of the legislation which also curbs religious conversions only for the sake of marriage.
The new law, however, did not go down well with the opposition Samajwadi Party.
Hours after the Governor’s nod, SP president Akhilesh Yadav said his party will oppose the Bill when it comes up in the UP Legislature for passage.
“The Samajwadi Party is not in favour of any such law. We will oppose it (when it comes up in the assembly),” the SP leader said in reply to a question at a press conference here.
According to the ordinance, a marriage will be declared “null and void” if the conversion of a woman is solely for that purpose and those wishing to change their religion after marriage need to apply to the district magistrate.
It also has a provision under which if someone returns to their original religion, it shall not be deemed a conversion.
While the onus to prove that the conversion has not been done forcibly will lie on the person accused of the act and the convert, it said.
In case of contravention of the law, the ordinance says that the court shall grant appropriate compensation payable by the accused to the victim of conversion which may extend to a maximum of Rs 5 lakh in addition to the fine.
The ordinance says no person shall convert, either directly or indirectly from one religion to another by use or practice of misrepresentation, force, undue influence, coercion, allurement or by any fraudulent means or by marriage nor shall any person abet, convince or conspire such conversion.
An aggrieved person, his/her parents, brother, sister, or any other person who is related to him/her by blood, marriage or adoption may lodge an FIR about such conversion, according to the ordinance.
In cases of mass religious conversion, the registration of the social organisations will be cancelled, and strong action will be initiated against them.
If those previously convicted under the ordinance are caught again for the same offence, they shall be subjected to double punishment, it said. Notwithstanding anything contained in the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, all the offences under this ordinance shall be cognisable and non bailable and triable by the sessions court, the ordinance said.
In recent weeks, BJP-run states like Uttar Pradesh, 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 Hindu activists refer to as “love jihad”.
The Uttar Pradesh cabinet’s approval to the ordinance followed the announcement by Adityanath that his government would come out with a law to deal with “love jihad”.
Addressing bypoll rallies in Jaunpur and Deoria last month, Adityanath had used the Hindu funeral chant of ‘Ram Naam Satya Hai’ to threaten those who do not respect daughters and sisters.
The Uttar Pradesh State Law Commission had submitted a report last year suggesting a new law to check the forcible religious conversions. (AGENCIES)