The Allahabad High Court Friday issued notice to the Uttar Pradesh Government on a petition challenging the controversial ‘Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2020’, also called the “Love Jihad” Ordinance which regulates marriage-related religious conversions.
A division bench of Chief Justice Govind Mathur and Justice Piyush Agrawal directed the UP government to file its reply to the petitions latest by January 4, 2021.
The bench also made it clear that on the next date of hearing i.e. on January 7, 2021 the matter will be heard finally.
The plea contended that the Ordinance is violative of the Right to Equality, Right to Life and Freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion which are guaranteed as fundamental rights under the Constitution.
The UP Governor on the recommendation of the Yogi Adityanath government had promulgated the ordinance on November 27.
The ordinance provides for a jail term of a minimum of one year to a maximum of five years with Rs 15,000 fine for forceful, deceitful religious conversions. For conversions of minors and women of the SC/SC community, there will be a jail term of 3-10 years with a Rs 25,000 penalty.
If a person wants to perform a marriage after converting to any other religion, they will need to inform the District Magistrate(DM) two months before the wedding. A failure to inform the DM will invite imprisonment from six months to three years and a fine of Rs.10,000.
In the case of mass conversions, the punishment is from three years to 10 years and a fine of Rs. 50,000 on the organisations which indulge in it.
It also seeks to declare the marriage null and void in case of conversion done by a woman for the sole purpose of marriage.
The ordinance came despite a recent Allahabad High Court order holding that the right to live with a person of their choice irrespective of religion professed by them, was intrinsic to the right to life and personal liberty.
Immediately after the issuance of the Ordinance, many news reports have surfaced indicating the ‘misuse’ of the Ordnance against inter-faith couples.
Police reportedly stopped an interfaith wedding in Lucknow, citing the Love Jihad law after receiving complaints from fundamentalist Hindu outfits. The police intervened on the day of the wedding, despite the consent of the families of the Hindu bride and Muslim bridegroom.
As per the report in The Print, in three of the five cases, the alleged crimes were committed before the promulgation of the law, which means it was unconstitutional to prosecute them under the controversial law.
A Moradabad woman whose husband was held under ‘love jihad’ law in UP has held that she suffered a miscarriage after having been moved to a shelter home by the authorities, amidst claims by police and doctors that the foetus she was carrying was fine, the Wire reported.
This article was first published in The Leaflet.