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Conspicuous by Absence: Term 'Love Jihad' Not Mentioned in UP Govt's Proposed Law Against Forced Religious Conversion

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath (File photo)

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath (File photo)

The prospective legislation on 'love jihad' presently under consideration of the UP law department will be called 'Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion Bill'. The state cabinet is expected to approve it in a few days, after which it is likely to be tabled in the upcoming winter session of the UP assembly.

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Pranshu Mishra

While Uttar Pradesh's Yogi Adityanath-led Bharatiya Janata Party government has declared that it will bring a tough law to tackle what right-wing outfits call 'love jihad', the proposed bill will have no mention of this politically contentious phrase.

Some saffron groups and BJP leaders have used the term 'love jihad' to target interfaith marriages, accusing Muslim men of engaging in a mass conspiracy to turn Hindu women away from their religion by seducing them.

The proposed legislation on 'love jihad' presently under consideration of the UP law department will be called 'Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion Bill'. The state cabinet is expected to approve it in a few days, after which it is likely to be tabled in the upcoming winter session of the UP assembly.

The bill as prepared by the state law commission was initially sent to the government last year. An amended copy of it was recently sent again to the state's home department. Speaking to CNN-News18, Justice Aditya Mittal, the chairman of the law commission, said, "The term 'love jihad' has not been used in the bill, and conversions related to all religions will be covered under the new law. To be precise it will not just be focused on Hindu-Muslim conversions or conversions for the specific purpose of marriage itself."

Elaborating on the provisions of the proposed law, the commission chief emphasised that it will be in no way an infringement on an individual citizen's right to religious freedom. Justice Mittal, however, added that under the prospective law interreligious marriages will be encouraged to go through the Special Marriage Act.

Under the Act, a consenting couple needs to reach out the district magistrate's court, expressing a desire for marriage. Subsequent to such a request, the administration issues a 30-day notice during which objections can be raised to such a proposed marriage.

According to Justice Mittal, the draft bill neither puts a ban on interreligious marriages nor discourages them. "The law, however, tries to remove anomalies in such marriages," he added.

Under the proposed legislation, anyone found guilty of having lured another person for conversion through marriage could face trial in court after registration of an FIR by the police. In case the charge is proven, the accused can be awarded rigorous imprisonment for up to five years, if the woman is from the general category. The quantum of punishment can go up to 10 years in case the victim is a minor or a Dalit.

In another important provision, family courts will have power to adjudicate under the proposed law. An aggrieved person will be able to approach a family court in case he or she feels cheated. The court in turn will have the power to nullify such a marriage.

However, amidst stringent punishment norms, the commission says it has also ensured there is no room for organisations or third parties with vested interests to interfere. The bill proposes that only families of the couple involved can complain against such a marriage. No third party will have the right to approach the courts.

UP's law minister Brijesh Pathak told CNN-News18, "Our government is determined to check the rising cases of love jihad. The bill in this regard will soon be brought before the state cabinet,"

For the tightrope walk to ensure a balance between constitutionally enshrined citizens' rights and the proposed law, the state government has adopted a cautious approach to ensure it stands up to any legal scrutiny in the days to come.


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