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3 states, 3 anti-conversion laws: what’s similar, what’s different?

Topics Covered: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

3 states, 3 anti-conversion laws: what’s similar, what’s different?


Context:

The MP Cabinet has approved the Freedom to Religion Bill, 2020 as an Ordinance.

  • Previously, Uttar Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh have passed similar laws.

What’s similar?

A common feature of all three laws is the declaration of such marriages as “null and void” and the penalising of conversions done without the prior approval of the state.

Differences:

They differ in the quantum of punishment prescribed, and in attributing the burden of proof that a conversion is lawful.

  1. Prior notice:

The MP Law requires a 60-day prior “declaration of the intention to convert” to the District Magistrate for conversion to be valid, following which a couple from different religions can be legally married.

The Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religious Ordinance, 2020 too requires a 60-day notice but also requires the Magistrate to conduct a police inquiry to ascertain the real intention behind the conversion.

The Himachal Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, 2019 that came into effect last week, requires a 30-day prior “declaration of intention to convert”.

Who can investigate?

The MP Law: Section 4 of the MP Law states that there cannot be an investigation by a police officer except on the written complaint of the person converted or the person’s parents/siblings. No police officer below the rank of a sub-inspector can investigate an offence under the law.

The Himachal law says that prosecution cannot be initiated without the prior sanction of an officer not below the rank of a sub-divisional magistrate.

The UP law allows the same people as allowed by the MP Law to file a complaint.

Burden of proof:

The MP Law places on the person converted the burden of proving that the conversion was done without any coercion or illegality.

The Himachal law has a similar provision.

The UP law goes further, placing this burden of proof on people who “caused” or “facilitated” the conversion and not on the individual.

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. About Article 21.
  2. Article 25.
  3. What has the Allahabad High Court said in Salamat Ansari-Priyanka Kharwar case.
  4. Similarities and differences between these three laws.

Mains Link:

The right to choose a partner or live with a person of choice was part of a citizen’s fundamental right to life and liberty. Discuss.

Sources: Indian Express.