“Love Jihad” laws curb individual and collective freedoms A comparative table of Anti-Conversion laws of four Indian states

18, Jan 2021 | CJP Team

As the courts of law gear up to hear petitions against new anti-conversion laws of Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, the States of Himachal Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh have also formulated their anti-conversion or ‘love-jihad’ laws. While the common thread in these four laws is that they make religious conversion by marriage to be illegal, there are similarities aplenty and a few important differences.

The four laws from Uttar Pradesh (UP), Himachal Pradesh (HP), Uttarakhand and Madhya Pradesh (MP) stand apart from other and previously passed anti-conversion laws by other states, in that they make conversion by marriage illegal and a cognisable offence.

CJP has in W.P. (Crl) No. 428/2020 already challenged the UP and Uttarakhand laws. We will be shortly amending our petition to also challenge that Himachal Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh legislations. Support this PIL Now! Donate generously to preserve our individual freedoms.

 

On March 21, 2018, Uttarakhand Freedom of Religion Act was tabled in the State Assembly and on May 11, 2018, the Act was given Governor’s assent.

In Himachal Pradesh, Act 13 of 2019 is the Himachal Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, 2019 to which the Governor gave Assent on October 29, 2019. This act repealed the 2006 Freedom of Religion Act of the Himachal Pradesh Govt, of which certain provisions/sections had been struck down by the Uttarakhand High Court by a division bench on August 30,2012. (Evangelical Fellowship v/s State of Himachal Pradesh, J Deepak Gupta & Rajiv Sharma).

 

On November 27, 2020, the Uttar Pradesh (UP) Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance 2020 was promulgated by the state government. The Ordinance seeks to regulate religious conversions and prohibits certain types of religious conversions (including through marriages). The 8th Report of the Uttar Pradesh Law Commission, in November 2019, citing “rising incidents of forced/fraudulent religious conversions”, had  recommended enacting a new law to regulate religious conversions. The Ordinance was promulgated on November 24, 2019 and the Governor gave her assent on November 28, 2020.

The Madhya Pradesh (MP) Govt promulgated the MP Freedom of Religion Ordinance that was passed through a Special Session of the State Assembly on December 27,2020 and officially notified in the State Gazette on January 9, 2021.

Here is a comparative look at all the four laws, namely Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2020; Himachal Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, 2019; Uttarakhand Freedom of Religion Act, 2018 and Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Ordinance, 2020

 

 

UP ordinance HP Act Uttarakhand Act MP ordinance
Definitions

 

“Allurement” means and includes offer of any temptation in the form of any gift or gratification or material benefit, either in cash or kind or employment, free education in reputed school run by any religious body, easy money, better lifestyle, divine pleasure or otherwise;

 

Inducement” means and includes offer of any temptation in the form of any gift

or gratification or material benefit, either in cash or kind or employment, free

education in reputed school run by any religious body, easy money, better

lifestyle, divine pleasure or otherwise;

“Allurement” means and includes offer of any temptation in the form of any gift or gratification or material benefit, either in cash or kind or employment, free education in reputed school run by any religious body, easy money, better lifestyle, divine pleasure or otherwise;

 

“Allurement” means and includes offer of any temptation in the form of any gift or gratification or material benefit, either in cash or kind or employment, education in reputed school run by any religious body, better lifestyle, divine pleasure or promise of it or otherwise;

 

 

“Convincing for conversion” means to make one person agree to renounce one’s religion and adopt another religion;

 

“Force” includes a show of force or a threat of injury of any kind to the person converted or sought to be converted or to any other person or property

 

“Force” includes a show of force or a threat of injury of any kind to the person converted or sought to be converted or to any other person or property including a threat of divine displeasure or social excommunication;

 

“Force” includes a show of force or a threat of injury of any kind to the person converted or sought to be converted or to any other person or property including a threat of divine displeasure or social excommunication;

 

“Force” includes a show of force or a threat of injury of any kind to the person converted or to his parents, siblings or any other person related by marriage, adoption, guardianship or custodianship or their property including a threat of divine displeasure or social excommunication
“Fraudulent means” includes impersonation of any kind, impersonation by false name, surname, religious symbol or otherwise “fraudulent” means to do a thing with intent to defraud “Fraudulent” includes misrepresentation of any kind or any other fraudulent contrivance

 

“Fraudulent” includes misrepresentation of any kind or any other fraudulent contrivance

 

“Coercion” means compelling an individual to act against his/her will by the use of psychological pressure or physical force causing bodily injury or threat thereof;

 

“Coercion” means compelling an individual to act against his will by the use of psychological pressure or physical force causing bodily injury or threat thereof;

 

“Coercion” means compelling an individual to act against his will by the use of psychological pressure or physical force causing bodily injury or threat thereof;

 

“Coercion” means compelling an individual to act against his will by any means whatsoever including the use of psychological pressure or physical force causing bodily injury or threat thereof;

 

“Undue influence” means the unconscientious use by one person of his/her power or influence over another in order to persuade the other to act in accordance with the will of the person exercising such influence.

 

“Undue influence” means the unconscientious use by one person of his power or influence over another in order to persuade the other to act in accordance with the will of the person exercising such influence.

 

“Undue influence” means the unconscientious use by one person of his power or influence over another in order to persuade the other to act in accordance with the will of the person exercising such influence.

 

 

“Undue influence” means the unconscientious use by one person of his power or influence over another in order to persuade the other to act in accordance with the will of the person exercising such influence.

 

 

“Conversion” means renouncing one’s own religion and adopting another

 

“Conversion” means renouncing one religion and adopting another

 

“Conversion” means renouncing one religion and adopting another “Conversion” means renouncing one religion and adopting another but the return of any person already converted to the fold of his parental religion shall not be deemed conversion
“Religion convertor” means person of any religion who performs any act of conversion from one religion to another religion and by whatever name he is called such as Father, Karmkandi, Maulvi or Mulla etc “Religious priest” means priest of any religion who performs purification Sanskar or conversion ceremony of any religion and by whatever name he is called such as pujari, pandit, mulla, maulvi, father etc.,

 

“Religious priest” means priest of any religion who performs purification Sanskar or conversion ceremony of any religion and by whatever name he is called such as pujari, pandit, mulla, maulvi, father etc.,

 

“Religious priest” means and includes a person professing any religion and who performs rituals including purification Sanskar or conversion ceremony of any religion and by whatever name he is called such as pujari, pandit, qazi, mulla, maulvi and father

 

“Mass conversion” means where two or more persons are converted “Mass conversion” means where more than two persons are converted at the same time
“unlawful conversion” means any conversion not in accordance with law of the land
Punishment for contravention of
Section 3 Section 3 Section 3 Section 3
Min. 1 year

Max. 5 years

Fine of Min. Rs. 15,000

Min. 1 year

Max. 5 years

Fine (no specific amount)

Min. 1 year

Max. 5 years

Fine (no specific amount)

Min. 1 year

Max. 5 years

Fine of Min. Rs. 25,000

If unlawful conversion is against minor/woman/SC ST
Min. 2 years

Max. 10 years

Fine of min. 25,000

Min. 2 years

Max. 7 years

Fine (no specific amount)

Min. 2 years

Max. 7 years

Fine (no specific amount)

Min. 2 years

Max. 10 years

Fine of min. 50,000

Conceals religion while marrying person of other religion
No such provision No such provision No such provision Min. 3 years

Max. 10 years

Fine of min. 50,000

If mass conversion is committed
Mins. 3 years

Max. 10 years

Fine of min. 50,000

No such provision No such provision Mins. 5 years

Max. 10 years

Fine of min. 1,00,000

Compensation
Court shall order accused to pay victim compensation max. Rs. 5 lakhs No such provision No such provision No such provision
Repeat offender
For every subsequent offence, punishment not exceeding double the punishment provided for in the ordinance No such provision No such provision Mins. 5 years

Max. 10 years

Fine (no specific amount)

Failure of individual to give declaration to DM before conversion
Min. 6 months

Max. 3 years

Fine of min. Rs. 10,000

Min. 3 months

Max. 1 year

Fine

Min. 3 months

Max. 1 year

Fine

No such provision
Failure of religious priest to give notice to DM
Min. 1 years

Max. 5 years

Fine of min. Rs. 25,000

Min. 6 months

Max. 2 years

Fine

Min. 6 months

Max. 2 years

Fine

Min. 3 years

Max. 5 years

Fine of min. Rs. 50,000

Violation of provisions by institution/organization
the person in charge is liable as an individual would be, under the relevant provisions the person in charge is liable as an individual would be, under the relevant provisions the person in charge is liable as an individual would be, under the relevant provisions the person in charge is liable as an individual would be, under the relevant provisions
the registration of the institution or organization may be cancelled upon reference made by DM in this regard the registration of the institution or organization may be cancelled after giving opportunity to be heard. the registration of the institution or organization may be cancelled after giving opportunity to be heard. the registration of the institution or organization may be rescinded by competent authority
Parties to offence
Anyone who does the act, enables (or omits to), aids, abets, counsels, convinces or procures any other person to commit the offence Anyone who does the act, enables (or omits to), aids, abets, counsels, causes any other person to commit the offence Anyone who does the act, enables (or omits to), aids, abets, counsels, procures any other person to commit the offence No such provision
Burden of proof
To prove that conversion

was not effected through misrepresentation, force, undue influence, coercion, allurement or by any fraudulent means or by marriage lies on the person who has caused the conversion or if facilitated, then by that person

To prove that conversion

was not effected through misrepresentation, force, undue influence, coercion, inducement or by any fraudulent means or by marriage lies on the person so converted or if facilitated, then by that person

To prove that conversion

was not effected through misrepresentation, force, undue influence, coercion, allurement or by any fraudulent means or by marriage lies on the person so converted or if facilitated, then by that person

To prove that conversion

was not effected through misrepresentation, force, undue influence, coercion, allurement or by any fraudulent means or by marriage lies on the accused

Prohibition of conversion

All four laws prohibit conversion from one religion to another by “misrepresentation, force, undue influence, coercion, inducement (or allurement) or by any fraudulent means or by marriage”; abetment and conspiring such act is also prohibited.

In the provisos contained in the UP, HP and Uttarakhand laws, re-converting back to previous religion is not regarded as conversion or an “offence.” The HP Act uses the words “parent religion”, the UP ordinance uses the word “immediate previous religion” and the Uttarakhand Act uses the word “ancestral religion”.

The MP law constructs this differently. The MP ordinance (now a legislation), has a unique definition of “conversion” which states that “Conversion” means renouncing one religion and adopting another; but the return of any person already converted to the fold of his parental religion shall not be deemed conversion

The MP Act has an additional sub-section that such conversions, carried out in contravention of this provision “will be deemed null and void”.

Who can complain?

Any aggrieved person or parents or brother-sister may complaint to the Court or of these categories of persons are minor or lunatic, by any other person who is related to him by blood, marriage or adoption can complain. – Uttarakhand

Any aggrieved person or parents or brother-sister or any other person who is related to him by blood, marriage or adoption can file FIR – UP ordinance

Person who is converted by “misrepresentation, force, undue influence, coercion, inducement (or allurement) or by any fraudulent means or by marriage”; or his parents or siblings can file written complaint to the police and any other person who is related to him by blood, marriage or adoption, guardianship or custodianship can also complain but with the leave of the court – MP Ordinance.

No such provision in the HP Act.

Marriages done for sole purpose of conversion

The UP, HP and Uttarakhand laws have the same provision that “Any marriage which was done for the sole purpose of conversion by the man of one religion with the woman of another religion either by converting himself before or after marriage or by converting the woman before or after marriage may be declared null and void by the Family Court or where Family Court is not established, the Court having jurisdiction to try such case on a petition presented by either party thereto”

The MP ordinance states that any marriage performed in contravention of section 3 will be deemed null and void.

The UP ordinance has an additional proviso that all provisions of section 8 and 9 will apply for such marriages to be solemnised.

Offences are non-bailable cognisable and triable by sessions court.

Inheritance and Maintenance Rights

 While none of the other 3 laws have touched upon these aspects of personal laws, the MP ordinance has made some specific provisions regarding the same. The provisions state that notwithstanding provisions under section 6 (declaring marriages null and void) and decision of court under section 7 (petition for declaring marriage null and void), any child born out of such marriage will be deemed legitimate and succession to property will be deemed as per religion of the father. It also states that the woman and the child will also be entitled to maintenance as per Chapter IX of the CrPC.

Declaration before conversion

Uttarakhand and HP Acts: These require an individual to give a declaration one month in advance to the DM that conversion is being done without any force, coercion, undue influence or allurement. The religious priest/convertor is required to give a similar notice 1 month in advance.

UP ordinance: This requires an individual to give a declaration 60 days in advance to the DM that conversion is being done without any force, coercion, undue influence or allurement. The religious priest/convertor is required to give a similar notice 1 month in advance.

MP ordinance: This requires an individual to give a declaration 60 days in advance to the DM that conversion is being done without any force, coercion, undue influence or allurement. The religious priest/convertor is required to give a similar notice 60 days in advance.

The DM will direct an enquiry into the real intention, purpose and cause behind the conversion.

If these steps are not followed, the conversion will be illegal and void, as per UP, HP and Uttarakhand laws.

No notice is required if person is re-converting to parent/ancestral/immediate previous religion.

Declaration after conversion

 The UP ordinance is the only law that allows for declaring conversion within 60 days of conversion and appear before the DM within 21 days of making such declaration.

Bar on accepting donations

Uttarakhand and HP Acts: Any person/organisation that violates the provisions of these laws will be barred from accepting any donation or contribution of any kind from within the country or abroad

UP ordinance: State government is barred from providing financial aid or grant to such institutions/organizations.

No such provisions in the MP ordinance.

 Conclusion

 While we have looked at the differences and common elements of these four laws, we have found that the common thread and the most perilous one is that these laws make conversion by way of marriage a criminal offence, which allows these states and their law enforcement agencies to interfere in interfaith marriages and incarcerate people for making a personal choice of marrying someone from another faith.

While this is seriously problematic per se, what is peculiar and also worth mentioning is that every consecutive law brought in as an anti-conversion law is more stringent than its precursor from another state. For instance, the HP and Uttarakhand laws do not specify the fine to be imposed in case of contravention but the subsequent UP and MP ordinances specify the minimum amount of fine to be collected. Even in that the MP ordinance imposes higher amount of fine for the same offence, compared to the UP ordinance. Even the period of imprisonment is longer for similar offence in the MP ordinance, which is the latest law to be passed in this bandwagon of anti-conversion laws.

Background: Anti-conversion laws in India

The Constitution guarantees the freedom to profess, propagate, and practise religion, and allows all religious sections to manage their own affairs in matters of religion; subject to public order, morality, and health. To date, there have been no central legislations restricting or regulating religious conversions. In 2015, the Union Law Ministry stated that Parliament does not have the legislative competence to pass an anti-conversion legislation. However, it is to be noted that, since 1954, on multiple occasions, Private Member Bills have been introduced in (but never approved by) the Parliament, to regulate religious conversions.

Over the years, several states have enacted ‘Freedom of Religion’ legislation to restrict religious conversions carried out by force, fraud, or inducements.  These are: (i) Odisha (1967), (ii) Madhya Pradesh (1968), (iii) Arunachal Pradesh (1978), (iv) Chhattisgarh (2000 and 2006), (v) Gujarat (2003), (vi) Himachal Pradesh (2006 and 2019), (vii) Jharkhand (2017), and (viii) Uttarakhand (2018).

Additionally, the Himachal Pradesh (2019) and Uttarakhand legislations also declare a marriage to be void if it was done for the sole purpose of unlawful conversion, or vice-versa. Further, the states of Tamil Nadu (2002) and Rajasthan (2006 and 2008) had also passed similar legislation.  However, the Tamil Nadu legislation was repealed in 2006 (after protests by Christian minorities), while in case of Rajasthan, the bills did not receive the Governor’s and President’s assent respectively.

(Compiled by Sanchita Kadam)

Related:

CJP moves SC against “Love Jihad” laws

CJP’s Love Jihad Petition: SC issues notice to UP and Uttarakhand

“Be Wise and in Love” – The Sovereign

 

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