Conversion Laws | National

79 cases booked under unlawful conversion law in U.P

Image for representation.   | Photo Credit: S. Subramanium

Of the 79 cases registered against unlawful conversion under the 2020 law in Uttar Pradesh till July this year, charge sheets have been filed in 50 cases, while final report was filed in seven cases, according to a document submitted by the State government in the Allahabad High Court.

Of the 79 FIRs, investigation was pending in 22 cases, the State government said in a counter affidavit in response to a bunch of PILs challenging the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Act 2021 (earlier ordinance 2020).

Uttar Pradesh Governor Anandiben Patel promulgated the ordinance on unlawful conversion days after it was passed by the Yogi Adityanath-led State cabinet last November.

Out of the 79 FIRs lodged till July 7, most were registered in Bareilly zone 21, followed by Meerut Zone 15, Gorakhpur 12, Agra seven and Prayagraj five.

Moradabad case

The cases in which final report was submitted include the Moradabad case last December when the husband of a Hindu woman Pinki who was pregnant was arrested under the law. The woman, who was temporarily kept in a government shelter, had reportedly suffered a miscarriage leading to outrage over the case.

Her husband Rashid and his brother were arrested when they had reached the marriage registration office in Kanth on the complaint of Pinki’s mother who alleged Rashid had induced her into marriage and converted her under the garb of providing her a job. Later, in her statement before a magistrate, Pinki had said they married through consent as both were adults.

The final report was also placed in the Shahjahanpur case where five persons, including two Christians originally from Tamil Nadu and two Dalits, were booked under the ordinance on the complaint of Ram Lakhan Verma, a city convenor of the Bajrang Dal. Mr. Verma had alleged that they were trying to lure him and others into converting into Christianity with the promise of jobs and free education for children. The accused were also thrashed by members of the right-wing outfit.

However, the accused denied the charges and said they were only participating in a musical prayer service in a marriage lawn on January 3, 2021 to mark the first Sunday of the New Year.

While providing data under the new law, the State government’s affidavit said the “the assertion that no official data is available to substantiate the claim that the social fabric is threatened by [forcible conversions] is fallacious, misconceived, not admitted and is denied”.

Security threat

The government claimed that there is ample data in public record to show that forcible conversions have in fact created a fear psychosis across the entire State, which in turn has warranted the need for such legislation. The affidavit was submitted in August but which surfaced only now during a hearing of the PILs on Friday.

The State government told the court that instances of forcible conversions have also been probed from a national security angle and attached a report by the U.P. ATS.

The government also submitted that the issue of forced conversion was being faced through the Indian subcontinent and it was not peculiar to our country. “As such neighbouring countries have also framed anti-conversion laws. There are anti-conversion laws in Nepal, Myanmar, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and Pakistan,” said the government through the 92-paragraph affidavit.

A division bench of Justices Munishwar Nath Bhandari and Chandra Kumar Rai on October 22 allowed the petitioners three weeks to file a rejoinder to the counter affidavit.

The new law makes religious conversion a cognisable and non-bailable offence, inviting penalties of up to 10 years in prison if found to be effected for marriage or through misrepresentation, force, undue influence, coercion, allurement or other allegedly fraudulent means.

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 ₹15,000. However, if a minor, a woman or person belonging to the Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribes communities was converted through the said unlawful means, the jail term would be a minimum of three years and could be extended to 10 years with a fine of ₹25,000.

Shashwat Anand, advocate for one of the petitioners in the PILs against the law, said it suffers from the vice of vagueness and overbreadth, so that even those who are voluntarily converting are also roped in by stretching the language of the provisions.

“This creates a situation of communal apartheid which strikes at the very root of our constitutional ethos, which envisions social integration. We hope the Court takes note of all such facts and rightly strikes down the law,” he added.


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Printable version | Dec 5, 2021 7:36:13 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/79-cases-booked-under-unlawful-conversion-law-in-up/article37127689.ece

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