Lucknow: The Uttar Pradesh government on Tuesday approved an Ordinance which criminalizes religious conversion induced through coercion, temptation, cheating, or undertaken for the sake of marriage.
The proposed Ordinance, which aims to check unlawful conversions — euphemistically referred to as “love jihad” by the ruling BJP leaders --provides for a jail term of 1 to 5 years with Rs. 15,000 penalty for those who convert women for the sake of marriage.
“Such marriages would be null and void,” the Ordinance states. A copy of the draft was not immediately available but a government spokesperson shared a few salient points of the proposed law.
“If one wants to marry after converting to another religion, that person will need to take permission from the District Magistrate two months before marriage,” State Cabinet Minister Siddharth Nath Singh said.
The onus to prove that the conversion is not being done forcefully or on account of any inducement will lie on the person who wishes to convert and the one who performs the conversion process.
‘‘There were more than 100 cases before us where forcible conversion has taken place (and so) framing a law was necessary,’’ Siddharth Nath pointed out. ‘‘The manner in which religious conversions are undertaken using deceit, lies, force and dishonesty is heart wrenching, and it was necessary to have a law in this regard," he explained.
The draft ordinance, proposed by the UP Law Commission a year ago and finalized by the Law and Home Departments, awaits the signature of Governor Anandi Ben Patel to become effective.
It proposes a jail term of 3-10 years with a Rs 25,000 penalty for unlawful conversions of minor girls and women of the SC/ST communities.
In cases of forced mass conversions, the Ordinance provides for a jail term of 3 to 10 years with Rs 50,000 penalty.
The move comes after the two-day National Executive Committee meeting of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in Prayagraj. Adityanath along with Sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat and Sarkaryawah Suresh “Bhaiyaji” Joshi attended the meet where “Love Jihad” was reportedly discussed.
While the Law Commission proposed the law a year ago, the move got traction after Adityanath said that those waging “love jihad” should either mend their ways or be prepared for their final journey – “Ram naam satya hai ki yatra nikalne wali hai”.
Meanwhile, a special investigation team formed to probe incidents of 'love jihad' in Kanpur has not found any evidence of a conspiracy or foreign funding. The accused youths did not have the backing of any organization, the SIT probe has found.