UP Assembly passes bill on conversion amid protests by opposition

Lucknow: Amid protests by the Opposition, the Uttar Pradesh Legislative Assembly on Wednesday passed by voice vote a bill to curb religious conversions carried out by fraudulent or any other undue means, including through marriage.

The Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Bill, 2021 seeks to replace the ordinance promulgated in November last year that provides for imprisonment of up to 10 years and a maximum fine of Rs 50,000 for violators.

The opposition Congress and BSP demanded that the bill be sent to a select committee.

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However, the bill was passed in the House as Aradhana Misra, the Congress Legislative Party leader and Lalji Verma, the leader of BSP in the Assembly, protested.

The bill was introduced by Parliamentary Affairs Minister Suresh Khanna in the House.

Opposing the legislation, Misra said that marriage is a personal matter of an individual. “This is an issue on which comprehensive discussion and debate are needed. Hence, instead of taking a decision in haste, it should be sent to the select committee,” she said.

BSP leader Lalji Verma said that the Constitution guarantees the right to free profession, practice and propagation of religion.

“This bill is against the Constitution. Hence, the government should either withdraw this bill or send it to the select committee,” he said.

 The Samajwadi Party members did not participate in the debate.

Under the bill, a marriage will be declared “null and void” if the conversion is solely for that purpose, and those wishing to change their religion after marriage need to apply to the district magistrate.

The bill mainly envisages that no person shall convert, either directly or indirectly from one religion to another by use or practice of misrepresentation, force, undue influence, coercion, allurement or by any fraudulent means or by marriage nor shall any person abet, convince or conspire such conversion.

The onus to prove that the conversion has not been done forcibly will lie on the person accused of the act and the convert, it said.

An aggrieved person, his/her parents, brother, sister, or any other person who is related to him/her by blood, marriage or adoption may lodge an FIR about such conversion, according to the bill.

BJP leaders had said the legislation intends to counter alleged attempts to convert Hindu women to Islam in the guise of marriage, which right-wing Hindu activists refer to as ”love jihad”.

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