With the Uttar Pradesh Cabinet clearing a draft ordinance to eradicate the unlawful religious conversions called 'Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Religious Conversion Ordinance, 2020' or 'Uttar Pradesh Vidhi Virudh Dharma Samparivartan Pratishedh Adhyadhesh, 2020', there are many cases getting registered in the state, the recent one being seven getting arrested under this law. The Uttar Pradesh state cabinet cleared the ordinance on 24 November following which it was approved and signed by state Governor Anandiben Patel on 28 November.
1) What is the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Religious Conversion Ordinance, 2020?
The UP cabinet defines punishment and fine under three different heads. The law is to provide for the prohibition of 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 matters connected therewith or incidental thereto".
2) What is the punishment?
If someone goes against the law, the person would face jail term of one to 5 years, and a 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 10 years, with a minimum fine of Rs 25,000.
On the other hand, if such conversion is found at the mass level, then those guilty would face a jail term from three to 10 years, with a minimum fine of Rs 50,000.
In another significant provision, the proposed law termed as 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 someone’s religion.
3) The law is not biased. There is room for conversion under certain circumstances and what are they?
Under the new proposed law, anyone 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 supposed to prepare a format for the application and the individual has to fill the application for conversion in that format.
However, under the new law, it would be the responsibility of the one going for the religious conversion to prove that it is not taking place forcefully or with any fraudulent means. In case, any violation is found under this provision, then one faces a jail term from 6 months to 3 years and a fine of minimum of Rs 10,000.
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