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Opinion

UP bans illegal religious conversions with immediate effect

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The Uttar Pradesh government has banned “illegal religious conversions” with immediate effect when Governor Anandiben Patel enacted Uttar Pradesh’s Illegal Conversion of Religion Prohibition Ordinance on Saturday. The ordinance has stricter provisions to control religious conversions carried out through temptation, coercion, the use of force or fraudulent means and to marry women for the purpose of converting them to other religions.

The Uttar Pradesh cabinet on Tuesday approved the draft ordinance that prescribes up to 10 years in prison for those guilty of such conversions.

The enactment comes a month after Uttar Pradesh Prime Minister Yogi Adityanath promised to end “love jihad,” a term the Hindu right wing uses to describe the marital relations between Muslim men and Hindu women.

“… Uttar Pradesh’s Illegal Conversion of Religion Prohibition Ordinance was enacted,” said Additional Chief Secretary (internal) Awanish Kumar Awasthi.

The ordinance makes violations of its provisions recognizable offenses and not subject to bail. Authorizes “aggrieved parents, siblings, or close relatives” to submit first-information reports on violations.

“If any person reconverts to their immediate previous religion, it will not be considered a religious conversion,” says the ordinance.

An official spokesman said that those who violate the provisions can be punished with a prison term of one to five years with a fine of not less than 15,000 rupees. In cases of conversion of minors or belonging to registered castes or registered tribes, the prison term will be from two to ten years and a fine of up to 25,000 rupees. In cases of mass conversions, the ordinance provides for a prison term of three to ten years and a minimum fine of Rs 50,000. It requires the courts to award adequate compensation up to a maximum of Rs 5 lakh payable by the accused to the victim. If a defendant, already convicted of a crime under the ordinance, is convicted again, they will face double the penalty.

Anyone who advises or convinces the other person to commit a crime under the ordinance will also invite punishment. The burden of proof will fall on the accused.

Any person wishing to convert to another religion must submit a declaration at least 60 days in advance to the respective district magistrate / additional district magistrate. Any offense will result in a penalty of six months to three years in prison with a fine of Rs 10,000. Any religious convertor conducting the conversion ceremony must give one month’s notice of the proposed ceremony and the violation will result in a prison term of one to five years with a fine of Rs 25,000.

Thereafter, an investigation into the intent / purpose of the conversion will be conducted and violation of this provision will have the effect of voiding said conversion. A converted person will have to make another declaration in the prescribed format within six months of conversion.

The ordinance also provides for the cancellation of the registration of institutions / organizations that violate its provisions.

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