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The story of UP’S “Love Jihad”:is it against the freedom of choice? 2020

The story of Love Jihad of UP: is it against the freedom of choice?

The Uttar Pradesh government approved the “Uttar Pradesh Vidhi Viruddh Dharm Samparivartan Pratisedh Adhyadesh 2020” that is the UP Prohibition of Unlawful Religious Conversion Ordinance-2020). This ordinance, as mentioned by the government, seeks to bar “forceful religious conversions”, including the ones for marriage. This ordinance came into effect on the 28th of November, 2020 and has since been the centre of controversy. 

What is Love Jihad?

This term is infamously known for and used by extreme radical individuals who allege a conspiracy by Muslim men to marry women from other religions just to convert them to Islam. India is a diverse nation, home to various religions and cultures with a population of more than 1.3 billion people. It’s not a new tale that inter-religious marriages have been often met with disapproval from society.

What is pertinent to note here is the fact that the phenomenon of “love jihad” has become, as some people allege a political tool by certain parties. The term “Love Jihad” was originally coined in Kerala in 2009 and this idiom gained recognition when in 2017 the Kerala High Court asked the police to investigate the cases of “Love Jihad.” 

What is the proposed UP law on “love jihad?”

The story of Love Jihad of UP: is it against the freedom of choice? Can one still convert under the proposed law? judgement of the High Court of Allahabad?
The story of Love Jihad of UP: is it against the freedom of choice? Can one still convert under the proposed law? judgement of the High Court of Allahabad?

According to the ordinance that has been passed, the proposed law cleared by the Uttar Pradesh cabinet defines punishment and fines under three different heads. Those found guilty of conversion done through “misrepresentation, force, undue influence, coercion, allurement or by any fraudulent means” in contravention of the law would face jail term of one to 5 years, and minimum fine of Rs. 15,000.  

In case, such conversion is of a minor, a woman from the Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe, then those found guilty would have to face a jail term from three to ten years, with a minimum fine of twenty five thousand rupees (Rs.25,000).

Having said that, if such conversion is found at the mass level, then those guilty would face jail term from three to ten years, also along with a fine of fifty thousand rupees (Rs.50,000). In an another significant provision, the proposed law termed as “Uttar Pradesh Vidhi Virudh Dharma Samparivartan Pratishedh Adhyadesh 2020”, proposes among other things that a marriage will be declared “shunya” (null and void), if the sole intention of the same is to change a girl’s religion or forceful lead to its conversion. 

Can one still convert under the proposed law?

Under this law as proposed by the government of UP, any individual wanting to convert into another religion would have to give it in writing to the District Magistrate at least two months in advance. The government is also supposed to prepare a format for the application and the individual has to fill the application for conversion in that format. 

More importantly, under the new law, the onus lies on the individual going for the religious conversion to prove the fact that the religious conversion is not taking place forcefully or with any fraudulent means. If any violation is found under this provision, the one faces a jail term from six months to three years and a fine of minimum ten thousand rupees. 

How is this law introduced?

Apart from the mass controversy surfacing around this law, the government in its defence stated that this decision was extremely necessary for maintaining “normal law and order” in the state and to ensure justice for women, especially those from the scheduled tribes and castes. This statement was released by the Cabinet Minister of Uttar Pradesh Sidharth Nath Singh. 

What was the judgement of the High Court of Allahabad?

The chief minister of UP had referred to a decision of the Allahabad High court that stated, “Conversion for the sake of marriage wasn’t acceptable.” 

But, recently, the Allahabad High Court has said that its earlier verdict does not lay down a “good law” for the masses. In a recent verdict which was passed, the court held that “Right to live with a person of his/her choice irrespective of religion professed by them, is intrinsic to right to life and personal liberty. Interference in a personal relationship, would constitute a serious encroachment into the freedom of choice of the two individuals.” 

Why is this law prone to be misused?

The Uttar Pradesh police registered its first case of alleged “love jihad” in Bareilly but it turned out to be a case of fraud. It turned out that the case was an old one for which a fresh FIR was registered and what should be noted here is that under criminal law, retrospective operation doesn’t apply. 

Supreme Court’s take on this law:

The story of Love Jihad of UP: is it against the freedom of choice? Can one still convert under the proposed law? judgement of the High Court of Allahabad?
The story of Love Jihad of UP: is it against the freedom of choice? Can one still convert under the proposed law? judgement of the High Court of Allahabad?

The apex court of the country declined the plea on the stay of the anti-conversion laws in UP and Uttarakhand and also issued a notice to both the states for hearing on the same matter. A petition was filed in the Supreme Court which challenged the constitutional validity of these laws, especially it being a non-bailable offence. Some also stated that this was a grave violation of the human rights of the individual as it goes against the right to freedom of religion, right to privacy, among others. The matter is now listed for hearing on 15th January, 2021. 

The story of Love Jihad of UP: is it against the freedom of choice? Can one still convert under the proposed law? judgement of the High Court of Allahabad? The story of Love Jihad of UP: is it against the freedom of choice? Can one still convert under the proposed law? judgement of the High Court of Allahabad? The story of Love Jihad of UP: is it against the freedom of choice? Can one still convert under the proposed law? judgement of the High Court of Allahabad?

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