- THE UTTAR Pradesh Cabinet on Tuesday cleared a draft ordinanceto check “unlawful religious conversions” and “inter-faith marriages with the sole intention of changing a girl’s religion”, with provision for jail term of up to 10 years.
- According to the “Uttar Pradesh Vidhi Virudh Dharma Samparivartan Pratishedh Adyadesh 2020” (prohibition of unlawful religious conversion), a marriage will be declared “shunya” (null and void) if the “sole intention” was to “change a girl’s religion”.
- “Those getting the conversion done in violation of the provisions of the proposed law would have to face jail term of up to 10 years,” said a government statement. If it is found that the conversion is done “forcibly, through atrocity or cheating”, the offence will be non-bailable.
- “The Cabinet has taken a big decision… it was necessary for maintaining normal law and order in the state and to ensure justice for women, especially those from the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes,” said Uttar Pradesh Cabinet Minister Sidharth Nath Singh, who is also the government spokesperson.
- “More than 100 cases of forcible conversions have come to light. The way in which religious conversions are done using deceit, lies, force and dishonesty is heart wrenching, and it was necessary to have a law in this regard,” he said.
- Singh said the proposed law has provision for jail term of 1 to 5 years, and a minimum fine of Rs 15,000. However, in case the woman is from the Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe or a minor, the person can be jailed for 3 to 10 years, with a minimum fine of Rs 25,000.
- In case of mass conversions done forcibly or through cheating, the jail term would range from 3 to 10 years, with a minimum fine of Rs 50,000.
- “If someone wants to convert their religion after marriage, an application will have to be submitted to the district magistrate two months in advance. The conversion can take place if permission is granted,” said Singh.
- Last year, the UP State Law Commission had submitted a report on the subject to Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, along with a draft ‘Uttar Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, 2019’, proposing that “conversion done for sole purpose of marriage to be declared null and void”.
- The process to bring a law was speeded up after Adityanath recently said at a public meeting in Jaunpur that those waging “love jihad” should either mend their ways or be prepared for their final journey – “Ram naam satya hai ki yatranikalne wali hai”.
- The BJP-ruled states of Haryana and Madhya Pradesh have also sought to bring a law to check what they say is “love jihad”. Last week, at least five Opposition-ruled states condemned the move as an encroachment on personal liberty, and an attempt to create a communal divide in the country.
The Concerns over Interfaith Marriages
- Over the centuries, casteism and religionism has prevailed in India. Despite several laws, the social stigma for interfaith marriages still exists in the Indian Society.
- Recently, several state governments have shown concerns about enacting proper laws to stop marriages which they refer to as ‘Love Jihad’.
- However, contemplating laws over interfaith marriage directly violates several rights of people such as right to freedom, personal liberty and right to life.
- The matrimonial relationship developed between two individuals having different religious faiths. Although marrying into a different religion is a matter of choice of an adult, there are certain issues regarding the same.
Issues with Interfaith Marriages
- Interfaith marriages are believed to be a forced conversion of one of the spouses (mostly women).
- As per the Muslim Personal law, in order to get married to a non-Muslim, conversion of religion is the only way.
- Hindu religion allows only monogamy and those who want to marry second time take another course.
- There is no provision regarding caste determination of children born out of such marriages.
- The Special Marriage Act, 1954 is not compatible with backwardness of the society.
- There is debate over the validity of Article 226 in context of annulling the interfaith marriage by high court.
The Special Marriage Act
- The Special Marriage Act is a special law enacted to provide for a unique form of marriage by registration wherein the parties to the marriage do not have to renounce their religion.
- This Act includes Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Jains, and Buddhists marriages.
- This act applies to all Indian states, except Jammu & Kashmir.
- This Act applies not only to Indian citizens who belong to different castes and religions but also to Indian nationals who live abroad.
- The fundamental requirement under this Act for a valid marriage is the consent of both parties to the marriage.
- If both parties to the marriage are willing to marry each other, that’s enough; caste, religion, race, etc. is not a restriction.
Conditions for Marriage
- The bridegroom must be at least 21, and at the time of the marriage, the bride must be at least 18 years of age. This is the minimum age limit respectively for a boy/girl to marry.
- At the time of their marriage, both parties must be monogamous; i.e., they must be unmarried and at that time should not have any living spouse.
- In order to be able to decide for themselves, the parties should be mentally fit, i.e., they must be sane at the time of marriage.
Challenges with Contemplating Laws for Interfaith Marriage
- Contemplating laws to regulate matrimonial relationships between two consenting adults would not be just against the constitutional guarantees but would offend the very notion of individuality and basic freedoms.
- Interference of the law in an individual’s choice of marriage violates the existing constitutional rights such as the Right to equality, Right to Freedom & Personal Liberty, Freedom of Religion and Right to Life.
- Article 21:It declares that no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to the procedure established by law. This right is available to both citizens and non-citizens.
- Article 25of the Indian constitution provides the freedom to practice any religion of one’s choice and personal laws of the religions have specified various laws relating to marriage for the followers of that religion. Hence, in India inter-faith marriages are allowed as the constitution allows one to convert to a different religion from what one was born with and further the personal laws of the religion have provisions.