LUCKNOW : It was in mid-2020 that nearly half a dozen cases related to inter-faith relationships gone wrong, were reported in Uttar Pradesh.

Alarmed at the trend, UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath decided to bring in a law that would check such cases and by November 2020, the Prohibition of Unlawful Religious Conversion Act came into force through an ordinance.

The Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Religious Conversion Bill, 2021, was passed after a voice vote in the state assembly. in February 2021.

The Act has a provision of up to 10 years imprisonment for a person found guilty under the Unlawful Religious Conversion Act, depending on the seriousness of the offence. Further, the guilty may be fined from Rs 15,000 to Rs 50,000.

In the Act, there is a provision of three to 10 years imprisonment for the conversion of minors and women of the SC/ST community.

Under this Act, any couple intending to solemnise an inter-faith marriage has to inform the district magistrate two months before getting married.

According to the law, if the only purpose of marriage is to convert the woman, then such marriages will be considered illegal.

The bill allows action against conversions through marriage, deceit, coercion or enticement.

This, without doubt, gives the police unlimited powers which, going by past history, will in all probability be abused.

It is well known that the police in India have been acting as the hatchet men of the ruling party. What prevents the police from fabricating an intelligence report that a proposed conversion violates the provisions of this law? The onus will then be on the affected party to move the high court and fight a long and expensive legal battle.

Section 12 of the UP law is also ‘amusing’. The burden of proof that the conversion was ‘lawful’ lies on the person who has ’caused’ the conversion. They do not bother to ask the person who has converted — his or her opinion does not matter at all. The government seems to be more interested in prosecuting and harassing the ‘convertor’.

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