Over the last few weeks, five BJP-led state governments – Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, Karnataka and Assam – have declared their intention to bring a new law into effect that would curb alleged instances of ‘love jihad’ – a term used to describe the forced conversion of non-Muslim women to Islam by Muslim men.
On October 31, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath went a step further, issuing a “warning” to those who “played with the honour of sisters and daughters,” noting that if the practice did not stop, their “Ram Naam Satya yatra (funeral processions)” would be carried out.
The Uttar Pradesh cabinet has now approved an ordinance that will look to make inter-faith marriages null and void if, upon investigation, they have been found to involve forced conversion. The ‘Vidhi Virudh Dharmantaran 2020’ Bill has, reportedly, been put together by the state’s home ministry before being issued to its law department. The original draft for the law was, reportedly, submitted by UP’s Law Commission in November 2019.
What does new law entail?
As per the fast-tracked law, a penalty of five years in jail along with a fine of Rs 15,000 will apply for forced conversion, including via marriage. The law states that if a woman has converted to another faith solely for the purposes of marriage, and an individual files a complaint with the law enforcement authorities, an investigation into the marriage is mandated.
If the investigation does, indeed, find evidence of forced conversion or relevant foul play, the marriage will immediately be dissolved. Mass conversion, as per the law, will attract a jail term of 10 years. Conversion, also, is regarded as a non-bailable offence.
The law also looks to impose a jail term of between two and seven years and a fine of Rs 25,000 in cases where forced conversion involves minors or women belonging to a Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe. It also states that, for all conversions, it will be made mandatory for the marrying participants to communicate their intent to a district magistrate at least one month in advance. Failure to do so could come with a jail term anywhere between six months to three years.
It is important to note that, despite the intent to stamp out allegedly rising incidences of love jihad, the term itself finds no mention in the wording of the ordinance. Representatives from the UP Law Commission explained to the Press that the law does not seek to place any restrictions on inter-faith marriages, and only applies in cases where conversion is forced or induced.
What critics say
The draft law had come under sharp criticism from several legal scholars who had contended that the concept of ‘love jihad’ did not have any constitutional or legal basis. They have pointed to Article 21 of the Constitution which guarantees individuals the right to marry a person of one’s choice.
Under Article 25, freedom of conscience, the practice and propagation of a religion of one’s choice, including not following any religion, are also guaranteed. The regulation of matrimonial relationships between two marrying and consenting adults amounts to an affront on basic freedoms and individual choice, they have argued.
Source: Times Now