Lucknow: The Uttar Pradesh government on Tuesday approved a draft ordinance to deal with religious conversion for the sake of marriage, which could land violators in jail for up to 10 years.
An official spokesperson said the state Cabinet gave its nod to the ordinance at its meeting chaired here by Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath.
In recent weeks, BJP-run states like Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Madhya Pradesh have revealed plans to enact laws to counter alleged attempts to convert Hindu women to Islam in the guise of marriage, which Hindu activists refer to as love jihad.
"The way in which religious conversions are done using deceit, lies, force and dishonesty is heart wrenching, and it was necessary to have a law in this regard, Cabinet minister and UP government spokesperson Sidharth Nath Singh said.
He said punishment under the new law is a jail term from one and five years, and a fine of Rs 15,000.
But if the woman involved is a minor or belongs to a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe, the jail term would range from three to 10 years, he said. The fine would increase to Rs 25,000.
In the case of mass conversions, the punishment is from three years to 10 years and a fine of Rs 50,000 on the organisations which indulge in it," the minister told reporters.
Singh said if anyone wants to change religion after marriage, then he or she can do so.
But the district magistrate has to be informed two months in advance in a prescribed form, and the person can convert once permission is granted.
He claimed that this will resolve law and order problems.
Interestingly, the ordinance does not mention the term 'love jihad' and the draft has been named 'Vidhi Virudh Dharmantaran 2020'.
The Uttar Pradesh Law Commission had submitted a draft for the proposed law in November 2019. It was under the consideration of the Home and Law Ministry over the last year.
Last week, the Yogi Adityanath government had given its consent to the draft of the new law.
Some saffron groups and BJP leaders have used the term 'love jihad' to target interfaith marriages, accusing Muslim men of engaging in a mass conspiracy to turn Hindu women away from their religion by luring them.
Earlier, the Allahabad High Court had struck down its previous judgement in which it had held that religious conversion "just for the purpose of marriage" was unacceptable.
The court said that essentially it does not matter whether a conversion is valid. The right of two adults to live together cannot be encroached upon by the state or others.
"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 right to choose a partner irrespective of caste, creed or religion is intrinsic to the constitutional right to life and personal liberty, the Allahabad High Court held, adding that two previous judgments that objected to religious conversion for the purpose of marriage did not 'lay down good law'.
(With agency inputs)