Topic: General Studies 1, 2:
- Social empowerment, communalism, regionalism & secularism
- Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
Interfaith marriages: Controversy surrounding “Love Jihad”
Context: With Uttar Pradesh leading the way, a set of states now plan to pass laws to end what they call “love jihad”.
What is “Love Jihad”?
- Love Jihad, also called Romeo Jihad, is an alleged activity under which young Muslim boys and men are said to reportedly target young girls belonging to non-Muslim communities for conversion to Islam by feigning love.
- There is no legal sanction to political terms such as ‘love jihad’.
- Even though individual reports have spread, all official investigations in India launched in 2009, 2010, 2012 and 2014 have found no evidence of the activity
About The Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Religious Conversion Law, 2020
- Immediate Context: The immediate context for such a law is a recent Allahabad High Court judgment which in a recent ruling declared that the conversion for the sole purpose of marriage as “null and void”.
- Prohibition on forceful or fraudulent Conversion: The proposed law says that those found guilty of conversion done though “misrepresentation, force, undue influence, coercion, allurement or by any fraudulent means” in contravention of the law would face jail term of one to 5 years, and a minimum fine of Rs 15,000.
- Marriage for the sole purpose of unlawful conversion: The law also says that a marriage will be declared “shunya” (null and void) if the “sole intention” of the same is to “change a girl’s religion”.
- Cognizable and non-bailable offences: Notwithstanding anything mentioned in the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973; all the offences under this law shall be cognizable and non-bailable and triable by the Court of Sessions.
- Approval for Conversions: Anyone wanting to convert into another religion would have to give it in writing to the District Magistrate at least two months in advance. Upon receiving the information, the said officer will conduct an enquiry to real intention, purpose and cause of the proposed religious conversion. If the proposed conversion contradicts the provisions of this law, it would be illegal and void
- Burden of Proof: It would be the responsibility of the one going for the religious conversion to prove that it is not taking place forcefully or with any fraudulent means. In case, any violation is found under this provision, then one faces a jail term from 6 months to 3 years and fine of minimum Rs 10,000.
What are the criticism of UP Law
- Interference with Personal Liberty: The law plans to outlaw religious conversion which may take place for marriage purposes. This interferes with personal liberty.
- Curtails Freedom of Religion: Based on Articles 25 to 28, an Indian citizen is guaranteed the freedom to practise any religion of his or her choice. The above UP law curtails this freedom. The State wants to intervene not only in the citizens’ private relationship with God, but also in the choice of their spouse.
- Against Article 21 (Right to Life): The right to marry a person of one’s choice is integral to Article 21 of the Constitution. 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’.
- Against Right to Privacy: In SC’s K.S. Puttaswamy v UOI (2017) judgment, it read the “right of choice of a family life” as a fundamental right. The regressive law limits the choice of a prospective spouse such that this spouse would only be one approved by the State.
- Laws exist to deal with Inter-Faith Marriages: The domain of matrimony is occupied by separate laws governing weddings that take place under religious traditions, and the Special Marriage Act that enables a secular marriage.
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
Connecting the dots: