The Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2020

Author:- Yamya Pandey, BA.LLB, 3rd Year, New Law College, Bharati Vidyapeeth Deemed to be University, Pune

The ‘Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance’, 2020, got it’s green signal by the State Cabinet and got promulgated on November 27, 2020 by the Governor Ms. Anandiben Patel. The ordinance includes that any marriage which is done with the only motive of “unlawful conversion or vice-versa” by man of a particular religion with a woman of some other religion, “either by converting himself/herself before or after marriage, or by converting the woman before or after shall be declared void”.

This ordinance made religious conversions which are done without the consent, a cognizable and non-bailable offence. The conditions which can lead up to such a condition are if marriage is done through distortion, intimidation, undue influence, duress, enticement or other similar fraudulent ways. The punishment defined for the same would be rigorous imprisonment of not less than 1 year which can be extended up to five years, with a fine of ₹15,000. It also includes that if a minor, a woman or a person belonging to the backward communities is converting through the said unlawful means, the jail term would be a minimum of 3 years and could be extended up to 10 years with a fine of ₹25,000. However, the bill passed by the State Cabinet further affirms stringent laws against mass conversions, which would call for term of rigorous imprisonment for not less than three years and up to ten years including fine of ₹50,000.[1]The court in such cases shall also award the required compensation owed by the accused to the victim of the conversion, at its absolute discretion, which may be increased to a limit of Rs. 5 lakh.

Somebody who intends to convert from one religion to another should provide the District Magistrate or Additional District Magistrate a statement according to advised terms at least sixty days in advance that he or she wishes for the conversion without any sort of external pressure or for any kind of attraction without their free will. Violation of this provision could result in a person being imprisoned for three months to three years. Any religious conversion who conducts the rite to convert another person from one religion to another religion shall give the DM or ADM a month’s advance notice in a specified form. Breach of this provision will call for a prison sentence ranging from one year to five years.

Furthermore the ordinance specified that the onus of proof that the conversion has not been accomplished through misrepresentation, intimidation, undue influence, bribery, attraction, fraudulent means or marriage will fall on the individual who induced the conversion or the person who initiated it.

 Appeal against the Ordinance

The validity of the ordinance got challenged in the Supreme Court by two of the lawyers, ‘Vishal Thakre’ and ‘Abhay Singh Yadav’, on the grounds that the ordinance passed by the Uttar Pradesh cabinet on religious conversion and inter-faith marriages can be squandered to dishonestly embroil people in various compromising situations. They also added that such an ordinance is most likely to work against the innocent people rather than helping the victims, which clearly is against public policy and against fundamental rights of people.

Further the petition stated that the ordinance can potentially become play toy in the hands of some mischievous elements of the society in such a way that would hamper the peaceful living of the innocents. It also added that it would do grave injustice to many.[2]

The petition filed by Adv. Sanjeev Malhotra stated that the makers of the constitution wished the “Constitution to be an adaptable document rather than a rigid framework for governance.” “They wanted it to be a flexible document which can adjust or adapt itself according to the changing situations”.[3]

The petition also mentions that if there is any kind of discrepancy between laws made by Parliament and laws made by the State Legislatures, the centre has the authority to make laws for the States pursuant to Article 254 of the Constitution of India, then the law passed by the center will prevail in that situation.

Conclusion

It may be alleged that the rule passed by the Uttar Pradesh Government is biased and usurps to the right to religion and marry provided by the constitution of India. But in the light of above ordinance I may conclude that it does not take away any right but protects instead. The constitution allows the citizens to follow and practice any religion and marry the person of his liking. It provides the same rights to the counterparts also. If both are willing, nobody can raise objection and nobody can put any kind of hindrance in between. Our constitution has given right to change the religion at one’s sweet will. There is no scope for the law to interfere. But when it is forced or done by temptation, by cheating or duping or by any other malafide intention it becomes illegal. Our constitution has a very transparent outlook and does not permit such criminal act. To my mind this ordinance/law is to protect citizens against such unconstitutional acts.

Disclaimer: Views and opinions as expressed in the Research Articles are solely of the author and any member of the core team of the website shall not be liable for the same.


[1] Omar Rashid, U.P. Governor promulgates ordinance on unlawful conversion, The Hindu, November 28, 2020,

https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/up-governor-gives-assent-to-ordinance-on-unlawful-conversion/article33198888.ece

[2]Debayan Roy, Uttar Pradesh ordinance on religious conversion, inter-faith marriage challenged before Supreme Court, Bar and Bench, 03 Dec, 2020 , 3:08 am, https://www.barandbench.com/news/litigation/uttar-pradesh-ordinance-religious-conversion-inter-faith-marriage-challenged-supreme-court

[3] Ibid.

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