New Delhi: Five days after promulgating the ordinance, the Uttar Pradesh Police arrested a Muslim man under the new and controversial ‘love jihad’ legislation on December 3, in response to a complaint registered on the very day the state’s governor gave her assent to it.
News of the arrest – the first under the ordinance – comes amidst criticism not just of the anti-Muslim nature of the ordinance but also of its legality.
‘Love jihad’ is a term coined by the Sangh Parivar and until now had been unrecognised by any legal system in India. In successive reports, The Wire has pointed out instances where Adityanath’s own administration has failed to gather irreversible proof that such a campaign of forcible conversions into Islam exists.
Uttar Pradesh Governor Anandiben Patel, on November 28, had given assent to the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2020.
The law provides for imprisonment of up to 10 years and a maximum fine of Rs 50,000 under various categories of forcible or fraudulent religious conversions.
Based on a complaint registered by one Tikaram, a case was registered at the Devarniya police station in Bareilly district on November 28 against one Owais Ahmad.
Tikaram, a resident of Sharif Nagar village in Devarniya, has accused Ahmad, a resident of the same village, of trying to convert his daughter through “allurement,” police told PTI.
According to the complaint, Tikaram’s daughter and Ahmed had studied together in Class 12. The latter had allegedly attempted to pressure Tikaram’s daughter to convert and marry him and then threatened her with kidnapping when she refused.
Tikaram has alleged that the family’s ‘harassment’ has continued even after his daughter got married to someone else in June this year.
Ahmed has told the news website, ThePrint, that he has no connections to the woman.
While Section 3 of the ordinance highlights ‘coercion’ into religious conversion as an offence, it is yet unclear as to how this would apply to a conversion that has not taken place and as to why the existing sections of the Indian Penal Code which deal with threatening a woman, pressuring her into marriage or threatening to kidnap her would not apply in such a case.
“This is the first arrest under the new law. Accused Owais Ahmad was arrested from the Richha railway gate in the Bahedi area here on Wednesday. He was produced before a local court and was sent to 14 days judicial custody,” Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of Police, Bareilly, Rajesh Kumar Pandey said.
Section 12 of the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2020, crucially places the burden of proof on the accused.
According to Bar and Bench, “It states that the burden of proof as to whether a religious conversion was effected through misrepresentation, force, undue influence, coercion, allurement or by any fraudulent means or by marriage, lies on the person who has caused the conversion and, where such conversion has been facilitated by any person, on such other person.”
(With PTI inputs)