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U P Prohibition of Unlawful Religious Conversion Ordinance, 2020

The ordinance undermines the constitutional principles and rights of Hindu women. The ulterior purpose of the ordinance is to discipline Hindu women and control their bodies and sexualities.

The aforesaid law is enacted by the government of Uttar Pradesh. The state cabinet cleared the ordinance on 24 Nov 2020, following which it was assented by state governor on 28 Nov 2020.

The object of the ordinance is ‘unlawful conversion from one religion to another by misrepresentation, force, undue influence, coercion, allurement or by any fraudulent means or by marriage and for the matter connected therewith or incidental thereto’

Background
In 2019, Uttar Pradesh State Law Commission under justice Aditya Nath Mittal had completed a report on unlawful religious conversion and proposal a draft Uttar Pradesh Freedom of Religious Act ,2019 to provide freedom of religion by prohibition of unlawful conversion from one religion to another by misrepresentation, force, undue influence, coercion, allurement or by any fraudulent means or by marriage’.

Procedure For Lawful Conversion

Anybody who wishes to covert from one religion to another has to go through the procedure prescribed by the ordinance under S 8 & 9 i.e., prior notice and declaration post conversion respectively.

A declaration (by a person who want to convert his/her religion to another), that he wishes to convert his/her religion on his/her own and with his/her free consent without any force, coercion, undue influence or allurement in the form prescribed in schedule I and the declaration shall be given at least 60 days in advance to the district magistrate or to ADM specially authorized by district magistrate.

The religious convertor, who will perform the conversion ceremonies shall also give a month advance notice in the prescribed form specified in schedule II of such conversion to the district magistrate or the ADM authorized for the same by district magistrate.
Thereafter the police will conduct the enquiry to ascertain the real intention, purpose and cause of proposed religious conversions.

S 9 mandates declaration post conversion, a converted person shall have to send a declaration in the form prescribed in schedule III within two months of conversion to district magistrate of the district within which the person is ordinarily resides.

The declaration shall contain all details including Permanent address, place of residence, religion after and before conversion. The individual has to appear before the magistrate within three weeks from the date of sending the declaration and confirm the content of the declaration.

Bad In Law
The ordinance does not affect just inter-faith marriages however they are against the spirit of and targeting or discouraging, inter-faith marriages. The ordinance is illegal and unconstitutional moreover the procedure mandated for lawful conversion are not constitutionally valid they are in violation of the right to privacy enshrined in article 21 of the Indian constitution.
The personal details of the individual mandated by section 9 of the ordinance which make the couples extremely insecure and it will become an invitation to moral policing by right wing groups.

There is a similar provision of prior notice in Special Marriage Act and the constitutionality of the said provision is sub judice before the apex court. In the view of the right to privacy judgment the notice requirement cannot sustained as constitutional. The spirit of Special Marriage Act is diluted by this ordinance.

If two individuals of different faith wish to marry and one voluntarily convert to another religion for marriage there is nothing wrong in that While declaring the decisions on 'love jihad' by the single benches of High Court of Allahabad to be not good law, as The division Bench of ALLAHABAD HC in Salamet Ansari Priyanka kharwar case ‘religion conversions for marriage were unacceptable’ was not a good law.

Marriage is a personal matter and the state is trying to dictate on personal matters. Its not the state business to know or monitor which religion an individual believes in or whether an individual changing his/ her religion. The state has no authority under the law to examine or monitor the reason or rationale of conversion of an individual.

The apex court held in Lata Singh vs State of UP, that this is a free and democratic country once a person become a major, he or she can marry whosoever he or she likes. If the parent of the boy or girl do not approve of such inter-caste and inter-religious marriage the maximum, they can do is to cut the social relation but they cannot give threats or commit or instigate violence and cannot harass the couple. Interference in a personal relationship, would constitute a serious encroachment into the right to freedom of choice of the two individuals.

K S Puttaswamy privacy case it was held that no law could interfere with the privacy rights of the people and enter into their private lives without any reasonable and justifiable reasons and no law would be held to be a good law if it attempts to do so without providing a procedure which is proportionate and which ensures a rational nexus between the object and the means which sought to achieve them. The triple test i.e.

The action must be sanctioned by law. The proposed action must be necessary in a democratic society for a legitimate aim, The test of proportionality.
This ordinance fails to pass the triple test miserably hence it is ultra-virus.

Conclusion
Nature of Indian society is so patriarchal whether the marriage is inter-faith or inter-caste, it is always the women who is adjusting to the family that she is going into. Law is not the only problem. This law negates the right to choose the partner. As a letter written by 104 EX IAS officers to Uttar Pradesh CM that UP is the epicenter of politics of hate, division and bigotry.
There is no remedy available for the victim and the offence is non- bailable and punishment with imprisonment which may extend up to 10 years.

Under article 25 of Indian constitution the word ‘propagation’ is to assure Christian minority but. Supreme court judgment in Rey. Stanislaus (1977) in which the court held you cannot convert because ‘propagation of religion does not extend to conversion’ in fact according to foremost India’s constitutional expert S M SEERVAI, says this judgment is “productive of great public mischief” and must be over-ruled and it is contrary to privacy judgment.

Particularly Sections 3, 4 and 6 of the ordinance provide the State with policing powers over a citizen's choice of life-partner or religion. The ordinance is against the fundamental rights to individual autonomy, privacy, human dignity and personal liberty guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution.

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