The Uttar Pradesh government has drafted a proposed law that seeks to make marriages null and void if they are found to involve forced religious conversion.
The draft ‘Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion Bill, 2020’ is aimed at curbing the alleged trend of love jihad – or an alleged conspiracy involving the conversion of Hindu women to Islam under the garb of love and marriage.
The draft bill has been formulated by the state’s Home department and forwarded to the Law department. The bill, it is learnt, will soon be presented before the state cabinet.”
The proposal law provides for five years of jail and Rs 15,000 as fine for forced conversion, including through marriage.
If a woman is converted only for the purpose of marriage and someone files a complaint with the police, an investigation will ensue, the draft bill states. If the investigation finds evidence of foul play, the marriage will be dissolved.
The draft bill also calls for 10 years’ jail for mass conversion. Conversion will be a non-bailable offence.
An official of the UP Law Commission – an advisory body to the Law department – said the proposed law includes no restriction on inter-religious marriage. “It only proposes that religious conversion by force, or by giving inducement or by facilitating conversion through marriages, should be included in the category of crime. Under this law, religious conversion is allowed, but conversion by force or through any kind of inducement is not,” he said.
Referring to the absence of the term ‘love jihad’ in the bill, the official said it was used only in the media, social media and political discourses.
“The Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion Bill, 2020 does not treat religious conversion in terms of ‘Hindu-Muslim’ only. Instead, it is applicable to all religions,” he said.
Among other things, the draft bill seeks to impose imprisonment of two to seven years and a fine of at least Rs 25,000 in case of forced religious conversion that involve minor girls or a woman belonging to a Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe.
For all kinds of conversions, the draft bill states, it would be mandatory to provide information to the district magistrate one month in advance and violation of this provision may attract a jail term ranging from six months to three years.
UP Law Minister Brajesh Pathak had on Friday said that the number of love jihad cases had increased rapidly in the state, adding that this had led to social tension and law and order problem.
On 31 October, the Allahabad High Court in a judgement had said that religious conversion just for the sake of marriage was not valid.