Article 370

The Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2020, was promulgated on November 28. The new law tries to prevent religious conversion by using misrepresentation, force, undue influence, coercion, allurement or by any fraudulent means or by marriage. It also gives provisions to punish anyone who abets, convinces or conspires such conversions. The marriages that come under this conversion will also be declared void and invalid. A person cannot convert another person by promising a better life, employment, money or exchange of gifts.

The Procedure of Converting to Another Religion in Uttar Pradesh

According to the new law, if a person wants to convert to another religion or if a couple belonging to two different religions wants to get converted in order to get married, then there is a tedious process that has been laid down. Atleast 60 days before the marriage, the person who wants to change his/her religion has to make an application to the District Magistrate. The application form contains the name, address and other personal details of the person who is going to convert him/her as well as the person who is going to be converted. The District Magistrate will then conduct a detailed enquiry about the backgrounds of all the persons involved with the help of the police. Even the whereabouts, residence, family etc of the religious converter will also be looked into by the police. If the District Magistrate finds no fault after the enquiry, the person will be allowed to convert. The District Magistrate will have to publicly put up a notice about the conversion and if the family members of the persons or anybody in the society does not like the fact that two persons from different religions are getting married, all they have to do is file an objection at the office of the District Magistrate and the marriage will be stalled.

Constitutional Invalidity

The Allahabad High Court has ruled in Salamat Ansari vs State of Uttar Pradesh that the right to choose a partner of one’s choice is a fundamental right under Article 21 which ensures right to life and personal liberty. Hence, it is unconstitutional and not fair if two grown ups who are mentally sound do not have the right to get married because their parents or the society is against them getting married because they follow different faiths. The state of UP had recorded 4322 cases of rape in 2018. The crime rate has decreased significantly since then but that may be due to the strict lockdowns imposed nationwide. According to a survey by the National Crime Records Bureau, when comparing statistics from 2015 with that of 2019, there is 66.7% increase in cases of crimes against women.

Local Support

The anti-conversion law is having the desired effect only because of the support of the local people. Nationalist militant organizations such as the Hindu Yuva Vahini and the Bajrang Dal have attacked Hindu-Muslim couples and instigated violence over cow slaughter. The Uttar Pradesh police has also been given certain powers to stop such inter-faith marriages

Unconstitutional and should be nulled

In the landmark case of Justice K. S. Puttaswamy (Retd.) and Anr. vs Union Of India And Ors, it was decided that the right to privacy is a fundamental right and is protected under Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Indian Constitution. The State cannot interfere in the private matters of an individual like their movements, legal activities done inside their own homes, their reproductive choices, what to eat, whom to choose as their partner etc.  All these are personal choices of the individuals and the State should not interfere unless it is done by force or without consent. Any new law that infringes the right to privacy can be nulled by the court; the Supreme Court was approached in a similar perspective but the Bench headed by S A Bobde told the petitioners that the matter is pending in the Allahabad High Court and that they should wait for the decision in the first instance and should approach the Supreme Court only in the second instance.

Similar anti-conversion laws have been implemented in Arunachal Pradesh, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, and Uttarakhand. If the courts do not take action against such unconstitutional laws, then India will turn from a developed nation to an underdeveloped nation which is driven by religious ideologies.

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