Context: The Uttar Pradesh government has cleared an ordinance that enables the state to police and punish inter-faith marriages with “the sole intention of changing a girl’s religion”.
Important provisions of Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religious Ordinance, 2020:
Why Uttar Pradesh drafted such an ordinance?
- In the past few months, cases of alleged “love jihad” have been reported from different parts of the state, especially eastern and central UP especially Lakhimpurkheri.
- a group of parents from a particular locality in Kanpur had complained that their daughters are being allegedly trapped by Muslim men
- In some cases, girls refused to accept that they were tempted into marriage.
Criticisms against the law
Many critics of the law have put forward a few issues regarding the law:
- Allowing the police to examine subjective “intentions” of men and women entering a marriage veers into thought control — and sets the law up for rampant abuse.
- Law against fundamental rights: By clearing the ordinance, the state government has trespassed the fundamental right to marry guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution.
|What is the term ‘Love Jihad’ or ‘Romeo Jihad’?:
Anti-conversion law at central level:
Central government proposed various bills but none of them passed and became a law. They are:
- Indian Conversion (Regulation and Registration) Bill 1954
- Backward Communities (Religious Protection) Bill 1960
- Freedom of Religion Bill in 1979
In 2015, the Law Ministry said passing of any law on religious conversion is purely a “State subject” and Central government has no role in it.
Is Uttar Pradesh being the only state to initiate law for forceful conversion?
- No, after the central government failed to pass 1960 bill, Odisha government moved on and passed the first anti-conversion law in 1968
- After that so far 10 states have had passed anti-conversion laws in India.
- The Himachal Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, 2019, and the Uttarakhand Freedom of Religion Act, 2018, both prohibit conversion by misrepresentation, force, fraud, undue influence, inducement, allurement and ‘by marriage’.
But Uttar Pradesh has become one of the first State to pass forcible conversion only during Interfaith marriages as special legislation. States such as Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, and Karnataka have also sought to bring such legislation.
- It simply means the matrimonial relation between individuals who follow different religious faiths.
- Marriage between the same faiths has been governed by the Hindu Marriage Act 1955, Muslim personal Law. But to rectify and include interfaith marriages Centre passed the Special Marriage Act 1954.
- Special Marriage Act considers Interfaith Marriages as secular.
Few important provisions of the Special Marriage Act of 1954:
Judicial pronouncement regarding interfaith marriages and forcible conversions:
- The Rev Stanislaus vs Madhya Pradesh case: Supreme Court said Article 25 does provide freedom of religion in matters related to practice, profess and propagate, but the word propagate does not give the right to convert and upheld the laws prohibiting Conversion through force, fraud, or allurement.
- Based on the above case it is clear that forcible conversion or conversion through fraud and allurement is against the Right to Freedom of Religion.
- Sarla Mudgal case: The court had held that the religious conversion into Islam by a person from non-Islamic faith is not valid if the conversion is done for the purpose of polygamy.
- Lily Thomas case: In this case Court observed that marrying another woman after converting to Islam is punishable under the bigamy laws.
- Hadiya Case: Supreme Court said that the right to marry a person of one’s choice is integral to Article 21 (right to life and liberty) of the Constitution
- Allahabad High Court, in the case, Noor Jahan Begum @ Anjali Mishra and another vs. State of U.P. and Others observed that one shouldn’t change one’s faith just for the sake of matrimony. As two persons professing different religions can marry under the Special Marriage Act.
- But in the most recent judgment, Allahabad High Court itself overturned its previous judgment, calling the decision “bad in law”. The division bench of the Allahabad high court said on November 11, that judgment does not take into account the right to life and personal liberty of mature adults.
Based on the judicial pronouncements it is clear that the Right to marry a person belongs to another faith is a Fundamental Right but that does not have to be associated only with personal laws or religious conversions. It is the Right of the individual’s personal liberty to involve in Interfaith Marriage either by the Special Marriage Act of 1954 or by Personal laws (after getting himself converted).