The Uttar Pradesh Cabinet on Tuesday cleared an ordinance to check “love jihad” cases, Times Now reported. “Love jihad” is a conspiracy theory used by right-wing groups who accuse Muslim men of converting Hindu women by marriage.
State Cabinet Minister Siddharth Nath Singh said the ordinance was against unlawful religious conversions, reported ANI. Singh said the ordinance provides for a jail term of 1 to 5 years with a penalty of Rs 15,000 for forceful religious conversion. For conversions of minors and women of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes community, there will be jail term of 3 to 10 years with a Rs 25,000 penalty. In cases of forced mass conversions, the ordinance has provisions for a jail term of 3 to 10 years with Rs 50,000 fine.
Significantly, Singh said if an individual wants to marry after converting to any other religion, they will need to take permission from the district magistrate two months before the wedding.
This came a day after the Allahabad High Court struck down a previous order that had deemed religious conversions only for the sake of marriage unacceptable, saying that the decision was “not good in law”. A division bench of Justices Vivek Agarwal and Pankaj Naqvi noted that interference in a personal relationship would constitute a serious encroachment on the right to freedom of choice of two individuals.
“To disregard the choice of a person who is of the age of majority would not only be antithetic to the freedom of choice of a grown up individual but would also be a threat to the concept of unity in diversity,” the court said. The observations were made when the High Court quashed a case filed against a Muslim man by the parents of his wife, who had converted to Islam last year to marry him.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath had referred to the judgement on November 1 as the basis for a new law that would criminalise “love jihad”. Soon, other Bharatiya Janata Party-ruled states like Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka and Assam also announced that they were considering similar laws.
Meanwhile, a Special Investigation Team looking into alleged “love jihad” cases in Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh, found that 11 out of the 14 incidents were criminal. The police said that they also found no proof that those involved in the cases were receiving foreign funding or that it was an organised conspiracy.