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Regressively Changing Social Structure: 21st Century Love Jihad Law

Four things are guaranteed to the Indian citizens as per the preamble of the Indian constitution: first, justice, which is social, political and economic; second, liberty of thought, belief, expression, worship and faith; third is the equality of status and also of opportunity; and the fourth, fraternity, which protects the integrity of the nation and dignity of the individual and the unity.

The final guarantee of fraternity closely linked with brotherhood ensures friendship, mutual support and consonant concur within the citizens irrespective of all their class, religion and caste. The corporeity of democracy is endangered when this idea of fraternity is shattered and is on the brink of dissolution.

What is the anti conversion law all about?
Indian constitution is observing this attack on the fundamentals of constitutional democracy, through this anti conversion law called as Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2020.
The ordinance is propagated to wage war against the deemed menace of love jihad, a term used outline inter-religious marriages and relationships. According to the ordinance, converting other person by way of fraud, misrepresentation, coercion, and so on comes under the ambit of a criminal offence. This violates the fundamental right to life and liberty and also strikes at the right to practise religion. Also, in the broader sense this ordinance augments the ideology of communalism by precluding few classes of the Indian population.

It also violates the fundamentals of criminal justice by presuming every religious conversion to be unlawful and the burden of proof will lie on the person arraigned for unlawful religious conversion. Furthermore, the cops can detain the arraigned person without any warrant as the offence is non – bailable and cognoscible.

It also requires the person aiming to convert to any other religion to contact the district magistrate and then the specified person will conduct an enquiry regarding the same.

Any kind of gift, material benefit or gratification can amount to inducement or allurement under this ordinance. One interesting thing to be noted here is that reconversion will not be considered unlawful despite being caused by force, fraud, misrepresentation, coercion and so on. There's no criminal offense even if one has converted voluntarily and then was reconverted forcefully. The ordinary term for imprisonment is one to five years but if the aggrieved is a woman, minor or a SC or ST, the imprisonment will be of 10 years.

Also, this law can amount to public misconduct as it allows the victim to bring a lot of people under the ambit of this criminal offence including parents and siblings. There's a high probability of innocent persons being mischeived.

Role of the judiciary
Large scale arrests have already been initiated as the ordinance has started taking its tariff. Everyday a typical front page of any newspaper publishes an arrest or separated couple stories related to this draconian law. It's high time that the ordinance must be struck down and should not be permitted to be ratified as a statute. This extermination of the freedoms and rights guaranteed by the Constitution can only be stopped by the judiciary as the executive and the legislature have certainly failed on this front.

Division bench of the Allahabad high court in a recent judgement of November 2020 said that “marriage is an individual's matter of choice and every person has the fundamental right to marry the person of their choice”. The state cannot intercede even if the decision inspires other crucial judgements. The division bench also countermanded an earlier decision which said that the conversion to Islam was valid only when it was based on an honest belief.

The interpretation of the apex court on Article 15 of the Constitution of India, which guarantees freedom of conscience, free profession, practice and propagation of religion, in the case of Ratilal Panachand Gandhi v/s State of Bombay (1994), held that:
every person under our Indian Constitution has a guaranteed fundamental right to manifest his belief and thoughts as warranted or enjoined by his religion and also to disseminate his religious thoughts for the elucidation of others”.

The apex court of India has already repudiated to stay this particular ordinance. When it comes to the exercise of power by the Supreme Court, there seems to be no consistency. The CJI made some inspection on whether being in love is a criminal offence and so on but nothing yonder than that.

Conclusion
What's the need to be concerned? The ordinance is much more than whom it earmarks. The ordinance is emblematic of how the social structure is changing aggressively and being changed fundamentally by the power of the executive. In a broader sense the ordinance does the following: fortifies patriarchy, revival of communalism, disintegrating the communities so on and so forth.

Religious nationalism is being revived, propagating the two nation theory. This version of nationalism which is popularised in the present day context is very much grave and slowly making its way in each and every part of our lives. Rather than true nationalism, India is experiencing a forced nationalism which cannot propagate true culture and moral spirit.

The ordinance disseminates a regressive agendum. It links individual freedom and autonomy with religion and community. The purpose of the society or community is described by the few ideologist individual men, whom the people think of as intellectuals and people with better knowledge of the culture, tradition and society. The Anti Conversion ordinance talks about only third party conversions. It neglects a person's individual right to transform to any other religion. This ordinance may lead to elicit panic in the minorities.

The ordinance refuses agency to the almost half adult population. It describes women, SCs and STs as vulnerable. In broader sense it defines women as individual who cannot think about herself. It does not matter how experienced, self dependent, accomplished and educated she is. This thought is jingoistic and unpleasantly promotes patriarchal supremacy. The ordinance if made into a statute may lead to communal tension and divisiveness.

When we should be thinking about increasing petrol and LPG prices, higher rate of unemployment, corruption in the government offices, increasing environmental pollution, falling economy and so on, the policy makers are concerned with religious rhetoric agendas.

References:
  • Shah, A. P. (2021). “Love Jihad” Ordinance Is Symbolic of Social Fabric Being Aggressively Changed: Justice A.P. Shah. The Wire. https://thewire.in/law/love-jihad-ordinance-communal-rhetoric-divisive-justice-ap-shah
  • Government of India. (2009). The Constitution of India. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.
  • Ganguly, S. (2021, January 27). The problem with India's ‘love jihad' laws. The Conversation. https://theconversation.com/the-problem-with-indias-love-jihad-laws-152675
  • Bills States. (2020). PRS Legislative Research. https://prsindia.org/bills/states/the-uttar-pradesh-prohibition-of-unlawful-conversion-of-religion-ordinance-2020#:%7E:text=in%20your%20browser.-,The%20Uttar%20Pradesh%20Prohibition%20of%20Unlawful%20Conversion%20of%20Religion%20Ordinance,and%20prohibits%20unlawful%20religious%20conversion.&text=A%20violation%20will%20also%20render%20the%20conversion%20illegal%20and%20void.
  • Gaur, V. (2020, December 25). “Love Jihad” law: A match made in heaven, judged on earth. The Economic Times. https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/love-jihad-law-a-match-made-in-heaven-judged-on-earth/articleshow/79958162.cms

    Award Winning Article Is Written By: Mr.Abhinav Krishna
    Awarded certificate of Excellence
    Authentication No: AP110886827262-18-0421

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