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Prohibition on Unlawful Conversion of Religion

On November 27, 2020, the state government of the Uttar Pradesh announced the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2020. The main purpose of introducing the ordinance was to regulate the laws relating to religious conversion and to prohibit the forceful religious conversions (through marriage or otherwise). Treading on the heels, the State Government of Madhya Pradesh on 27thMarch 2021 introduced The Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, 2020 which was followed by the passing of Gujarat Freedom of Religion (Amendment) Bill 2021 on 1stApril, 2021.

Key provisions of the acts are:

1. Prohibition on conversions – It prohibits the conversion of religion from one to another through misrepresentation, allurement, use of threat or force, undue influence, coercion, marriage or any other fraudulent means. It also prohibits any other person to abet or to help in conspiring such conversion.

2. Who can complain? – A written complaint is to be given against the unlawful conversion. It can be given by the victim of such conversion, his/her parents, siblings, or by the leave of court any other person related by blood, marriage or adoption. The MP ordinance also allows theguardians or custodians to file a complaint.

3. Burden of proof – the burden of proof lies upon the person causing such conversion.

4. Status of marriage through conversion – It provides that the marriage conducted for the purpose of unlawfulconversion or that the conversion is not done as per the procedures laid down in the act/ordinance than it should be declared as null and void.

5. Inheritance right – the MP’s Act provides that any child born through the marriage of such unlawful conversion shall be considered as legitimate and would be given the inheritance right. The succession to the property shall be according to the laws governing the inheritance of the father. It also provides for the maintenance of wife if the marriage is declared null and void.

6. Punishment – MP bill provides for imprisonment of not less than 1 year but which may extend to 5 years and shall also be liable to fine not less than Rs. 25,000/-. And if the contravention is with respect to a woman, SC/ST then imprisonment for a term not less than 2 year butwhich may extend to 10 years and shall also be liable to fine not less than Rs. 50,000. If a person conceals his religion and intends to marry without its revelation then he will be imprisoned for a term not less than 3 year which may extend to 10 years and shall also be liable to fine not less than Rs. 50,000. The UP ordinance provides for imprisonment up to 10 years and a fine of Rs. 50,000.

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