Lucknow: Uttar Pradesh Governor Anandiben Patel on Saturday gave assent to an ordinance against forcible or fraudulent religious conversions, which provides for imprisonment of up to 10 years and fine of up to Rs 50,000 under different categories.
However, Samajwadi Party (SP) leader and former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav said his party would oppose the state government’s Bill when placed in the Assembly for passage.
The promulgation of the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2020 comes four days after the Yogi Adityanath government had approved a draft of the ordinance which also curbs religious conversions only for the sake of marriage.
According to the ordinance, a marriage will be declared "null and void" if the conversion of a woman is solely for that purpose and those wishing to change their religion after marriage need to apply to the district magistrate.
It also has a provision under which if someone returns to their original religion, it shall not be deemed a conversion.
While the onus to prove that the conversion has not been done forcibly will lie on the person accused of the act and the convert, it said.
In case of contravention of the law, the ordinance says that the court shall grant appropriate compensation payable by the accused to the victim of conversion which may extend to a maximum of Rs 5 lakh in addition to the fine.
The ordinance says no person shall convert, either directly or indirectly from one religion to another by use or practice of misrepresentation, force, undue influence, coercion, allurement or by any fraudulent means or by marriage nor shall any person abet, convince or conspire such conversion.
An aggrieved person, his/her parents, brother, sister, or any other person who is related to him/her by blood, marriage or adoption may lodge an FIR about such conversion, according to the ordinance.
In cases of mass religious conversion, the registration of the social organisations will be cancelled, and strong action will be initiated against them.
If those previously convicted under the ordinance are caught again for the same offence, they shall be subjected to double punishment, it said.
Notwithstanding anything contained in the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, all the offences under this ordinance shall be cognisable and non -bailable and triable by the sessions court, the ordinance said.
In recent weeks, BJP-run states like Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Madhya Pradesh have revealed plans to enact laws to counter alleged attempts to convert Hindu women to Islam in the guise of marriage, which Hindu activists refer to as "love jihad".
The Uttar Pradesh cabinet's approval to the ordinance followed the announcement by Adityanath that his government would come out with a law to deal with "love jihad".
Will oppose ordinance passage: Akhilesh Yadav
SP leader and former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav on Saturday said his party would oppose the state government’s ordinance on religious conversions when placed in the Assembly for passage.
Uttar Pradesh Governor Anandiben Patel gave assent to the ordinance on Saturday. Now, it will be presented in the state legislature for passage.
Commenting on it, Akhilesh Yadav told reporters, “The Samajwadi Party is not in favour of any such law. We will oppose it (when it comes to the assembly).”
He also sought to know its relevance when the state has schemes to encourage inter-caste and inter-faith marriages.
The government does not want to debate on more important issues due to which it brought the ordinance, he said, alleging that it is creating hatred and chasm in society.
The SP president also extended support to the farmers' protest against the Centre’s farm laws.
“The betterment of farmers cannot be ensured through laws. It will happen only when the government comes forward and provides them with the right price of their produce,” he said.
Akhilesh Yadav alleged, “No other government has committed as many atrocities on farmers as this government is doing. This treatment is being meted out by those who had promised to double their income.”
He also asked when the Centre is going to bring a law to double farmers’ income and provide employment to the youth.