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Anti-Conversion Law

Anti-Conversion Law

Anti- conversion which is also referred as 'love jihad' in a layman's language has always been a hotly debated issue and has come to the forefront once again, as anti-conversion bill has been recently passed in the Uttar Pradesh state assembly. This issue has always been politicized and no stone is left unturned this time too. This article seeks to explain and clarify some important aspects of the bill.

Introduction
The anti-conversion law comes under the domain of state governments. The laws are in force in eight out of twenty-nine states: Arunachal Pradesh, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, and Uttarakhand. All of the laws seek to prevent any person from converting or attempting to convert, either directly or otherwise, another person through forcible or fraudulent means, or by allurement or inducement..[i]


Key Provisions of Uttar Pradesh's Anti-conversion bill

The Governor of Uttar Pradesh, Anandiben Patel has promulgated the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance 2020.

The key provisions of the bill are as follows:

  • Prohibition of conversion from one religion to another religion by misrepresentation, force, fraud, undue influence, coercion, allurement or marriage- No person shall convert or attempt to convert, either directly or otherwise, any other person 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, provided that, if any person reconverts to his immediate previous religion, shall not be deemed to be a conversion under this Act. [Section 3][ii]
     
  • The Ordinance states that if any conversion is made due to any Allurement, Gift, Gratification, Easy Money, Material Benefit, Employment, Free education in reputed school or better lifestyle, divine displeasure or due to Coercion, Fraudulent means, then such a conversion shall be punishable under Section 5[iii]
     
  • The Ordinance provides that there shall be Prohibition of conversion from one religion to another religion by way of misrepresentation, force, undue influence, coercion, allurement or by any fraudulent means.[iv]

The Lacunae in the Bill

It may allow the state to interfere in the private decisions of the couple and may act as a barrier in the inter religion marriage of the couple which is contrary to the basic principle of constitution. It might further create a chilling effect and hence goes against the right to privacy of an individual.

In 2018, the Supreme Court reiterated this position of law in the Hadiya case, where it rejected the allegation that Hadiya had been forcefully converted to another religion for the purpose of marriage. It held:
How Hadiya chooses to lead her life is entirely a matter of her choice.

The court emphasised the principles of individual autonomy and dignity with the expectation that:
Such an injustice shall not again be visited either on Hadiya or any other citizen[v]

Conclusion
This act, though tries to address the concerns of the society (especially women) but still has various gaps which need to be addressed, out of which the most important is right to privacy. We can hope, with this new law in existence, the large number of offences of forced and coercive inter religion conversion against the women, will decrease in the time to come.

End Notes
  1. https://www.loc.gov/law/help/anti-conversion-laws/india.php#:~:text=The%20anti%2Dconversion%20law%20in,%2C%20allurement%2C%20or%20fraudulent%20means. accessed on 28th November 2020
  2. https://www.livelaw.in/top-stories/breaking-up-governor-promulgates-uttar-pradesh-prohibition-of-unlawful-conversion-of-religion-ordinance-2020-166517 accessed on 28th November 2020
  3. https://www.livelaw.in/top-stories/breaking-up-governor-promulgates-uttar-pradesh-prohibition-of-unlawful-conversion-of-religion-ordinance-2020-166517 accessed on 28th November 2020
  4. https://www.livelaw.in/top-stories/breaking-up-governor-promulgates-uttar-pradesh-prohibition-of-unlawful-conversion-of-religion-ordinance-2020-166517 accessed on 28th November 2020
  5. https://theprint.in/opinion/up-doesnt-need-anti-conversion-law-india-needs-stronger-special-marriage-act/551516/ accessed on 28th November 2020
Written By: Aditi Gupta

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