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  The recent introduction of the UTTAR PRADESH PROHIBITION OF UNLAWFUL CONVERSION OF RELIGION ORDINANCE, 2020 has met with strong opposition from some sections of the society.  Despite proposing an ordinance to protect victims from fraud, coercion, and misrepresentation, the ordinance has come under fire for its publicity, i.e. for the personal religious affiliations of Uttar Pradesh’s present Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath.

What is the ordinance involved?

  The ordinance strengthens the process of religious conversion, adds a certain level of complexity to the process, increases the number of steps, and increases the time required to achieve it.  This not only ensures that the victim is provided with buffer time for assistance but also gives them time to re-evaluate their decision to convert to a different religion.

  For the process, the individual conversion investigator and the person performing the conversion must submit the same declaration to the concerned District Magistrate’s Office 60 and 30 days in advance respectively.  The district magistrate will then conduct a detailed investigation into the purpose and purpose of the proposed conversion.

  In addition, once the conversion has taken place, the converted person must submit a self-attested declaration within 60 days. This was followed by a public display of recordings of declarations and objections by the district magistrate. The converted person will then have to appear at the District Magistrate’s Office within 21 days of sending the declaration to establish their new identity and confirm its contents.

  The ordinances illegally legitimize conversions based on any one of the following: coercion, misrepresentation, unreasonable influence, fraud, forgery, and marriage.  To prove the legitimacy of the conversion, the burden is given to the person who gives the same benefit.  The provisions, however, allow a person to return to their previous religion without following this widely strict procedure.

  Under the proposed ordinance, in addition to fines for the crime of unlawful conversion, there are provisions for severe punishment for the victim.  These crimes are characterized by their cognitive and non-bailable nature.  In addition, the accused is liable to pay up to five lakh rupees as compensation to the victim of conversion under the Civil Code.  The specific punishment for offenses related to repeat offenses of this nature will be doubled.

  At the initiative of the Uttar Pradesh government, five Bharatiya Janata Party-ruled states have pledged to amend existing laws or introduce new laws on the same subject.  It has started to be criticized on many fronts.


  The first argument in the ordinance proposal seems to extend to include the right of a person to preach, the simplicity of which has been violated by restricting easy access.  Article 25 of the Constitution, in terms of the fundamental right to practice and propagate the religion guaranteed, further alleges the alleged unconstitutionality of the law of the Uttar Pradesh government and the nature of its blatant violation.  The ordinance further states that they target interfaith marriages and continue to persecute members of the Muslim community in particular.

  The Supreme Court has ruled in favor of Rev. Stanislas v. State of Madhya Pradesh that “if attempts are made to incite communal sentiments, anyone who has been forcibly converted to another religion on this basis, it will in all likelihood raise public fears of breach  Will greatly affect. “[1]

  It further states that the right to convert is not a fundamental right and that the propagation of religion should be a matter of restriction as it only indicates consent and expression without coercion.  In the same case, the Apex Court also ruled that forced conversions disrupt the public if not banned.

  Contrary to popular belief, the Uttar Pradesh Illegal Conversion Religion Ordinance, 2020 prohibits a consensual adult from marrying another consensual adult, provided that they follow the conditions set by it.[2]  The ordinance stipulates that married marriages should be annulled in illegal circumstances.

  Moreover, it only applies if the converting person does not wish to get married under the guidelines laid down by the Special Marriage Act, 1954, a law designed to simplify the process of marriage between couples under various personal laws.  The only requirement for marriage registration under the Special Marriage Act is to publish a public notice 30 days before the marriage, which is quite different from the lengthy and rigorous process under the Illegal Conversion of Religion Act of 2020.


  The Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Illegal Conversion Religion Ordinance, 2020 only supports the observations of the Hon’ble Court and in the form of provisions prohibiting religious conversion affected by false claims, force, fraud, unreasonable influence, coercion, alliance, or marriage.  It does not prohibit voluntary-based conversions, it simply prohibits the use of marriage as a vehicle for illegal proselytizing, nor does it preclude any person from legally propagating their religion.  The ordinance is therefore by Article 25 and concerns about its constitutionality are baseless and can be suspended.

  Furthermore, nowhere in the ordinance are the words ‘Hindu’, ‘Muslim’, ‘Christian’, ‘Persian’ or ‘religious majority or ‘minority’ used, comprising 14 sections and three schedules.  It applies equally to every citizen regardless of their religion or gender identity so that it is designed in such away.

  The Pra wayition of Illegal Conversion, adopted by the Government of Uttar Pradesh by imposing reasonable restrictions on freedom of conversion, is not unique or it’s first of its kind.  Some notable states and their related anti-transformation laws are Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, and Uttarakhand.

  This ordinance is only considered illegal in many parts of the country and only strengthens the protection sought and granted by the state for the protection of victims of fraud, coercion, and misrepresentation.  It is not unconstitutional or anti-secular.

  Indian society works from the grassroots level.  With 66% of people living in rural areas and unaware of their legal rights, they have very little access to formal justice when they are confused.  Rural societies are therefore primarily governed by their respective panchayats and act as an informal justice system within the community.[3]

  It is the informal backbone of the Indian social structure, especially in the rural environment.  The same applies when a person marries within their community and faces family disputes, the panchayat takes responsibility for the actions of the spouse and helps resolve disputes.  This is why in most rural areas people choose to marry within their community, whether religious or caste-based.

  However, when a person decides to leave their source community and join a foreign community, they enter a new environment. If there is a dispute with someone who is supporting someone in this new community, this person cannot hear the voice of his protest. This type of example throws the victim to a hard place with little reserve and respite.  The means of their informal remedy in the new society are limited.

  Analyzing the population data of Uttar Pradesh, we found that most of the inter-marriage in the state takes place in rural areas in rural settings where people are most vulnerable to lack of access to a formal support structure after forgetting the informal support structure provided by their community.  Therefore with this national ordinance, there is more time for the people to think about what they are deciding to do before they leave, and identity, and a full support structure given by the community.  What is given in return may not be worth it.

Conclusion –

The Uttar Pradesh Religion Illegal Conversion Ordinance, 2020 prohibiting, its view as an effective protector against illegal conversions, and breaking down areas of controversy against its proposal, has borne the need for its widespread application.

Written by Moumita Muhuri 3rd year of Shyambazar Law College

[1] Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2020: a welcome development – https://blog.ipleaders.in/uttar-pradesh-prohibition-unlawful-conversion-religion-ordinance-2020-welcome-development/.

[2] Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2020: a welcome development – https://blog.ipleaders.in/uttar-pradesh-prohibition-unlawful-conversion-religion-ordinance-2020-welcome-development/.

[3] Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2020: a welcome development – https://blog.ipleaders.in/uttar-pradesh-prohibition-unlawful-conversion-religion-ordinance-2020-welcome-development/.

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