Lucknow: The “Love Jihad” issue is being fanned by the Bhartiya Janta Party for many years especially in Uttar Pradesh. Such is the concern that the UP government has announced to bring a law to prevent “Love-Jihad” under which Muslim men are allegedly forcing Hindu girls to convert to Islam at the pretext of marriage.
Incidentally, the controversial term finds no mention of it in the contentious Bill prepared by the Uttar Pradesh Law Commission.
Justice (former judge of Allahabad HC) Aditya Mittal, the chairman of the UP law commission, told the Free Press Journal, "The term 'love jihad' has not been used in the Bill. The proposed law is gender-neutral and aims to prohibit all kinds of forceful conversions, not just Hinduism to Islam."
The draft law called 'Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion Bill' is expected to be tabled in the forthcoming winter session of the UP Assembly. However, the government could use the Ordinance way to implement it even before that, sources say.
Justice Mittal said taking suo motu cognizance of forceful conversions in the society, the law commission had prepared and submitted the 286-page draft to the government in November 2019 itself.
“The proposed law will not be an infringement of a citizen's right to adopt the religion he or she believes in. It will rather streamline the process of wilful conversion giving it legal status. At the same time, conversion by coercion, force, or on the promise of a better lifestyle or education would be a non-bailable offence,” Mittal says.
The Draft Bill prescribes three-year imprisonment for those involved in such forceful conversions.
He explains, “If the victim is a minor or belongs to Schedule caste and tribes, the quantum of punishment would be seven years jail. For forceful mass conversions (more than two people) the punishment would be 10 years.”
Mittal says many states like MP, Rajasthan, Jharkhand already have anti-conversion laws in place. UP doesn’t have one. He stresses the need for such law at the Central level to curb forced conversions.
Stating that the Indian constitution allows religious conversion subject to three conditions are met-public order, health, and morality, Mittal adds, “ At present, conversions are simply performed by priests without any approval of the State. Besides, the Indian Penal Code made in 1862 has no provisions to stop forced conversion.”
No cheating in interreligious marriages
According to Justice Mittal, the draft bill neither puts a ban on interreligious marriages nor discourages them.
"Our objective is to remove anomalies in such marriages. You might have seen how some people marry second or third time by keeping the spouse in the dark. When conversions will happen with the administration’s approval and after full inquiry, people will not be able to keep the partner in dark about their previous marriages,” he says.
Approval of DM Must For Conversion: Draft Bill
Any adult citizen seeking to convert voluntarily will have to apply to the district magistrate seeking permission for conversion. The priest or Maulvi who will perform the religious conversion process will have to submit a separate application stating that they would convert this person.
The DM would publicise all such applications in the public, by putting them up on the collectorate notice board and giving details in newspapers seeking objections of parents, blood relatives or relatives by means of adoption and marriage, or if any.
The DM would also seek a report from the police to ascertain whether the proposed conversion is being done forcefully. If satisfied, he/she would grant permission to convert in 30 days.
Would there be any restrictions for Converted people to marry in the new religion? “No, they can marry anyone. In fact,
No room for third parties
Justice Mittal says, only families of the persons involved can complain against such conversions and no third party would have the right to raise objections. Incidentally, several fringe groups in Uttar Pradesh are involved in stopping inter-religious marriages calling them love-jihad.