The Allahabad High Court on Friday stayed the arrest of a man booked by the UP Police under the recently promulgated Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2020.
A Division Bench comprising of Justices Pankaj Naqvi and Vivek Agarwal has asked the UP Police to not take any coercive action against the accused, Nadeem, and has tagged his plea, challenging the vires of the ordinance, before a Chief Justice led division Bench which is already seized of the matter.
This is the first time that an affected party has approached the High Court against this ordinance.
An Abuse of Power Through Religion
Nadeem pointed out that the new law confers unbridled powers upon the State Police which is already abusing it. He said in his plea that within nine days of passing of the Ordinance, the UP Police registered five cases under it. However, two of these cases, lodged within 24 hours of each other, present a sharp contrast — and show how police have wielded the new law selectively
In the plea Nadeem had submitted that the ordinance is selectively aimed at Muslim boys marrying Hindu girls and not targeted at Hindu boys marrying Muslim girls.
It was alleged in the FIR that Nadeem developed illicit relation with the Complainant’s wife with the purpose of converting her religion and was attempting to convert her by threat as well as by exerting undue pressure.
Nadeem has denied all the allegations and asserted that he is a poor labourer who had been falsely implicated in the case by the Complainant, merely to avoid payment of some dues which the complainant owes to him.
Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religious Ordinance
Commonly known as the “Love Jihad” law, the proposed law cleared by the Uttar Pradesh cabinet defines punishment and fine under three different heads. Those found guilty of conversion done though “misrepresentation, force, undue influence, coercion, allurement or by any fraudulent means” in contravention of the law would face a jail term of one to 5 years, and a minimum fine of Rs 15,000.
In case, such conversion is of a minor, a woman from the Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe, then those found guilty would have to face a jail term from three to 10 years, with a minimum fine of Rs 25,000.
On the other hand, if such conversion is found at the mass level, then those guilty would face a jail term from three to 10 years, with a minimum fine of Rs 50,000.
Under the new proposed law, anyone wanting to convert into another religion would have to give it in writing to the District Magistrate at least two months in advance. The government is supposed to prepare a format for the application and the individual has to fill the application for conversion in that format.
However, under the new law, it would be the responsibility of the one going for the religious conversion to prove that it is not taking place forcefully or with any fraudulent means. In case, any violation is found under this provision, then one faces a jail term from 6 months to 3 years and fine of minimum Rs 10,000.
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