Unlawful religious conversion will attract punishment – Uttar Pradesh introduces ordinance.

    Andandiben Patel, the Governor of Uttar Pradesh has given her approval to an ordinance on unlawful/ dishonest religious conversion called, Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2020.

    The said ordinance has been a subject of controversies and intense debates pertaining to its implications on inter faith marriages.

    Section 3, one of the key provisions of the ordinance, prohibits conversion from one religion to another by misrepresentation, undue influence, allurement, coercion or by marriage. Section 2 (a) defines allurement as temptation in form of gift, easy money, employment, free education, better lifestyle, pleasure or otherwise.

    Section 5 states that any person guilty under section 3 of the said act will be punishable with 1 to 5 years of imprisonment and fine of up to Rs. 15, 000. If the said conversion was to a minor, woman or persons belonging to SC/STs then the act will be punishable with 2 to 10 years with fine of up to Rs. 25,000. If a person commits offence under section 3 for the second time then it will be punishable with double the punishment prescribed.

    The most debated aspect is section 6 which states that a marriage done with the sole purpose of unlawful conversion a person’s religion shall be declared void.

    The said ordinance does not affect inter faith marriages nor conversion by one’s own will, as stated in section 8 and 9. These sections provides procedures to follow to convert ones religion. It includes giving a notice to the district magistrate 60 days in advance and the same to the religion convertor stating the free will of the person devoid of coercion, undue influence, or allurement. Thereafter the police shall inquire about the intention and purpose of the said conversion. Section 9 lays down procedure and declaration after conversion.

    The burden of proof as to whether the said conversion occur due to misrepresentation, coercion, allurement or undue influence or any other fraudulent means lies on the person who has caused such conversion. Section 12 stated that the burden of proof lies on the accused.

    ~ Abhishek Roy