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 ten years and a maximum fine of Rs 50,000 for violators.
The opposition Congress and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) demanded that the Bill be sent to a select committee. 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.
However, the ordinance has already been used to predominantly harass Muslims and adult women who have consented to interfaith marriages. The legislation attempts to legalise the Sangh Parivar’s bogey of ‘love jihad’, through which it alleges that there is a conspiracy afoot to convert unsuspecting Hindu women into Islam through marriage. However, both the Union home ministry and the Uttar Pradesh police have said they do not have evidence or records of such cases.