Impact of Uttar Pradesh Regulation on Human Rights, written by a Pooja student at SASTRA Deemed University
An ordinance is a rule made by the government or an authorized person. The government of Uttar Pradesh recently passed an ordinance under Article 213 (1) of the Constitution against unlawful conversion of religion. This ordinance was passed by Yogi Adityanath’s State Cabinet and promulgated by Governor Anandiben Patel. The new regulation criminalizes unlawful religious conversion that occurs solely for the purpose of marriage, and also declares that marriage null and void. Other states like Assam, Karnataka, Haryana and Madhya Pradesh have announced similar laws. The main aim of the regulation is to stem the migration of illegal religious conversion in the country. Some people call it the law against so-called “love jihad”. Many religious conversions are violent, so the ordinance prevents and punishes a person who converts the religion for the sole purpose of marriage. This new law provides for a 10-year prison sentence for the perpetrators.
Main features of the regulation
India is a multicultural and dynamic country with many types of religions and beliefs. Through religious conversion, a person accepts a new set of beliefs that are different from the previous religion. Nobody should be forced to convert to any other religion. The UP government ordinance has tried to stop this type of forced conversion. Some of the main features of the regulation are:
• Prohibits unlawful conversion through violence, misrepresentation, improper influence, deception or fraud, greed, or marriage. It also prohibits conversion with underage or planned castes or planned tribal women.
• The state parliament was not in session, so the governor immediately took action and passed this ordinance. The governor has the power to make such an ordinance under Article 213 (1) of the Indian Constitution.
• The ordinance will be extended to the entire state of Uttar Pradesh.
• The regulation regards the unlawful conversion of religion as a recognizable and non-criminal act.
• The prison sentence is up to 10 years for the offense.
• Interreligious marriages are not prohibited under this regulation.
• The conversion of the immediate previous religion is not considered to be an illegal conversion according to this ordinance.
• The regulation also prohibits bulk conversion. When two or more people convert to another religion, it is called mass conversion.
• Conversion made for the sole purpose of marriage is considered invalid conversion and the marriage is declared void.
• Some of the most important rules for conversion are: The converting person must make a statement to the District Judge or the Additional District Judge 60 days after the conversion. The religious convert should give five 1 month notice if such a conversion occurs. A police investigation should be carried out when such a notice or declaration is received by the magistrate.
• The burden of proof rests on the person charged with such a crime.
Religious Conversion “Through Marriage” – How It Affects People’s Rights
The Prime Minister of Uttar Pradesh had promised to enact an effective law against love jihad a few days before the regulation. The Allahabad High Court dismissed a couple’s request in October 2020. In this case, the woman was a Muslim from birth and converted to Hinduism in June, exactly one month and two days before her marriage. The conversion took place for the purpose of marriage. Therefore, the court ruled that religious conversion only for marriage was not acceptable. Even in the 2014 case, the Allahabad High Court ruled that converting religion to promote the principles of a particular religion would affect freedom of conscience under Article 25 of the Constitution.
Article 25 of the constitution authorizes the people of the country to freedom of religion. Everyone has the right to freely profess, practice and spread their religion. Everyone is free to change their religion at their own discretion and no one can be forced to change their religion. The ordinance forbids and punishes the conversion of the religion by force or coercion. Hence, the regulation would increase freedom of religious conscience with Article 25 of the Constitution.
In one respect, the regulation protects the spirit of religious freedom by prohibiting forced and fraudulent conversions. On the other hand, it also violates the freedom of individual freedom. The ordinance strongly affects the right to vote and freedom. The ordinance forbids the conversion of religion, which also occurs “through marriage”, whereby individual freedom is weakened. The regulation weakens freedom and increases the sense of community. The term “love jihad” has not been legally recognized, so a regulation against it would affect the people’s fundamental rights. The ordinance regards any religious conversion as unlawful unless it has been approved and confirmed by the state.
Both the Allahabad High Court judgments in Priyanshi and Noor Jahan did not address the issue of freedom. Two mature people have the freedom to choose a partner in their life. Such a right to choose one’s life partner implies the right to life and personal freedom under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. The importance of personal freedom has been greatly expanded with the decriminalization of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code. If two people of the same sex are allowed to live together in this country, it cannot then be possible for two people of different religions to convert their religion through marriage.
The Allahabad High Court found on November 11, 2020 that the right to choose a person as a life partner regardless of religion is a right under Article 21, which enshrines the right to life and personal freedom. In this case, the husband and wife filed an application to waive the FIR and the couple claimed that they were the majority in age, were responsible for the marriage contract and had been married for a year. The court ruled that the individuals are adults and have lived together for 1 year, so it is their right to vote. So the FIR was canceled and the written petition was successful.
A person’s decisions about their marriage are personal to them. The state cannot ask people to justify their personal choices. It is not people’s duty to justify their decision about their personal life. The ordinance gives the state the power to make decisions about the personal choices of other citizens. The right to freedom, privacy, autonomy and human dignity under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution is clearly violated. The right to privacy was respected in KS Puttuswamy, but the regulation hinders the basic element of the right to privacy. Personal autonomy is inappropriately destroyed and the conditions for lawful conversion affect people’s personal freedom and privacy. The people have the right to change their beliefs and it is part of their fundamental right to vote. There is no need for social consent for personal choices or decisions.
The regulation, oddly enough, puts the burden of proof on the person who converted their religion, rather than the person who alleged such conversion to be illegal. The regulation is an anti-law of love jihad. Instead of bringing an anti-law, the government could have changed the provisions of the law on special marriages. Interreligious marriages must be promoted in our district; only the law on special marriages can do that. The regulation exerts social pressure and hinders a person’s right to make life choices. An investigation takes place after the conversion declaration, which clearly violates the right to privacy and dignity of the individual. Many people have opposed this regulation because it is intentionally oppressive in nature. The prohibition of religious conversion by force or undue influence protects the rights of the people, but on the other hand religious conversion by marriage, which is considered illegal under the regulation, violates the rights of the people.
 Priyanshi @ Km. Shamren v. Uttar Pradesh State, Paper C No. 14288 of 2020.
 Noor Jahan Begum @ Anjali Mishra v. Uttar Pradesh State, Paper C No. 57068 from 2014.
 Navtej Johar v Union of India, (2018) 1 SCC 791.
 Salamat Ansari v. Uttar Pradesh State, 2020 SCC OnLine All 1382.
 Justice KS Puttuswamy v Union of India, Writ Petition (CIVIL) No. 494 from 2012.
 Jahan page v. Asokan KM, (2018) 16 SCC 368.