UP legislature passes bill on religious conversion

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Lucknow, Feb 25 (PTI) The Uttar Pradesh legislature on Thursday passed a bill aimed at curbing religious conversions by fraudulent or any other undue means, including through marriage.

The Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Bill, 2021, was passed in the Legislative Council by voice vote a day after it got the nod in the state Assembly.

After lunch, the Bill was tabled in the Upper House where the government does not enjoy a majority. Leader of Opposition Ahmed Hasan (Samajwadi Party) and Deepak Singh of Congress pointed to the shortcomings of the bill and urged that it be sent to a select committee.

In the 100-member UP Legislative Council, the SP has 51 members followed by the BJP which has 32 members. Bahujan Samaj Party has 6 MLCs, while the Congress has two MLCs. Apna Dal (Sonelal) and Shikshak Dal (non-political) have 1 MLC each. There are five independents. Two seats are vacant.

During the discussion on the Bill, Shashank Yadav (SP) said that a few sections of the Bill are totally against the basic value of the Constitution. 'The view of the government that religious conversion cannot be done by violating law is right, but for this laws are already present,' he added.

'There have been some cases in which the parents of the boy and the girl are saying that the marriage is taking place with consent from both sides. But, any person is lodging a complaint citing blood relationship, and the police is registering a case,' Yadav said.

BSP member Dinesh Chandra said there are provisions already present in the Constitution to stop forcible religious conversion, and hence there is no need for a new law.

Leader of the House and UP Deputy Chief Minister Dinesh Sharma said the intention of the government is not to allow the misuse of this law. 'This (law) is not related to any particular religion. If any Hindu indulges in an act like this, he is also eligible for punishment. This law has been brought so that no one can be influenced or harassed to change religion,' Sharma said.

Chairman Kunwar Manvendra Singh rejected the proposals of amendments given by the Leader of the Opposition and SP members, saying that the proposals are not as per the law. Amidst the ruckus made by the SP members, the chairman declared that the Bill has been passed by voice vote.

After this, SP members came towards the well of the House, and tore copies of the Bill. The chairman told them to go to their seats, but when they did not do so, he adjourned the House for 10 minutes.

The Bill seeks to replace the ordinance promulgated in November last year that provides for imprisonment up to 10 years and a maximum fine of Rs 50,000 for violators.

Under the provisions of the Bill, a marriage will be declared 'null and void' if the conversion is solely for that purpose, and those wishing to change their religion after marriage need to apply to the district magistrate.

The Bill mainly envisages that no person shall convert, either directly or indirectly, from one religion to another by use or practice of misrepresentation, force, undue influence, coercion, allurement or by any fraudulent means or by marriage nor shall any person abet, convince or conspire such conversion.

The onus to prove that the conversion has not been done forcibly will lie on the person accused of the act and the convert, it said.

An aggrieved person, his/her parents, brother, sister, or any other person who is related to him/her by blood, marriage or adoption may lodge an FIR about such conversion, according to the Bill.

BJP leaders had said the legislation intends to counter alleged attempts to convert Hindu women to Islam in the guise of marriage, which right-wing Hindu activists refer to as 'love jihad'. PTI NAV SMI HDA