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Indian Polity

UP Ordinance on Unlawful Conversions

  • 01 Dec 2020
  • 5 min read

Why in News

The Uttar Pradesh (UP) government has recently passed an ordinance to deal with unlawful religious conversions, which are in opposition of various judgements of the Supreme Court (SC).

Key Points

  • UP Unlawful Religious Conversion Prohibition Ordinance, 2020:
    • It makes religious conversion for marriage a non-bailable offence and the onus will be on the defendant to prove that conversion was not for marriage.
    • The notice period to the District Magistrate for the religious conversion is two months.
    • In case of conversion done by a woman for the sole purpose of marriage, the marriage would be declared null and void.
    • Violation of the provisions of the law would invite a jail term of not less than one year extendable to five years with a fine of Rs. 15,000.
    • If a minor woman or a woman from the Scheduled Caste (SC) or Scheduled Tribe (ST) converts, the jail term would be a minimum of three years and could be extended to 10 years with a fine of Rs. 25,000.
    • The ordinance also lays down strict action, including cancellation of registration of social organisations conducting mass conversions, which would invite a jail term of not less than three years and up to 10 years and a fine of Rs. 50,000.
  • Supreme Court on Marriage and Conversion:
    • The SC in its various judgments, has held that faith, the state and the courts have no jurisdiction over an adult’s absolute right to choose a life partner.
    • India is a “free and democratic country” and any interference by the State in an adult’s right to love and marry has a “chilling effect” on freedoms.
    • Intimacies of marriage lie within a core zone of privacy, which is inviolable and the choice of a life partner, whether by marriage or outside it, is part of an individual's “personhood and identity”.
    • The absolute right of an individual to choose a life partner is not in the least affected by matters of faith.
  • Related Previous Judgements:
    • Hadiya Judgement 2017:
      • Matters of dress and of food, of ideas and ideologies, of love and partnership are within the central aspects of identity. Neither the State nor the law can dictate a choice of partners or limit the free ability of every person to decide on these matters.
    • K.S. Puttuswamy or ‘privacy’ Judgment 2017:
      • Autonomy of the individual was the ability to make decisions in vital matters of concern to life.
    • Lata Singh Case 1994:
      • The apex court held that India is going through a “crucial transformational period” and the “Constitution will remain strong only if we accept the plurality and diversity of our culture”.
      • Relatives disgruntled by the inter-religious marriage of a loved one could opt to “cut off social relations” rather than resort to violence or harassment.
    • Soni Gerry case, 2018:
      • The SC warned judges from playing “super-guardians”, succumbing to “any kind of sentiment of the mother or the egotism of the father”.
    • Salamat Ansari-Priyanka Kharwar case of Allahabad High Court 2020:
      • The right to choose a partner or live with a person of choice was part of a citizen’s fundamental right to life and liberty (Article 21).
      • It also held that earlier court rulings upholding the idea of religious conversion for marriage as unacceptable are not good in law.

Way Forward

  • Thus, the government implementing such laws needs to ensure that these do not curb one’s Fundamental Rights or hamper the national integration instead, these laws need to strike a balance between freedoms and malafide conversions.


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