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Key Takeaways

  • Love-Jihad has been on the rise for more than a decade.
  • It came into existence way back in 2009 but was brought into light due to recent incidents.
  • The BJP government has attempted to make many religion based legislations and the States have followed suit.
  • Though the intention and validity of the laws have been in question, the Courts have clarified the stand again and again.
  • The Gujarat Freedom of Religion Amendment Act was brought before the Court.
  • The aspects dealt with in the case and the decision of the Court has been dealt with in this article along with the aspect of love-jihad.

Introduction

The Chief Minister of Gujarat announced the implementation of the Gujarat Freedom of Religion Amendment Act, 2021. After a long debate, the strict legislation was enacted by the Gujarat Assembly on April 1 with a majority vote, despite objections from members of the Congress, who labelled the bill as having a political motive. The maximum penalty for coercive religious conversion by false means under the original Act was four years in prison and a fine of up to Rs 1 lakh. The original Act defined “allurement” as any gift or gratification, whether in cash or in kind, as well as the provision of any meaningful advantage, whether monetary or not. Better lifestyle, divine benefits, or other allurement clauses have been introduced to the modified Act.

What is Love-Jihad

In the Assembly, Congress opposed the Bill, claiming that the administration said it was to prevent actions such as love jihad, although the Bill did not contain the phrase love jihad even once.

Now what is Love-Jihad? The term love jihad was coined in 2009, however the practise dates back over a century. According to activists, the plan is to marry women from specific groups and convert them to their husband's religion. The Quran forbids a Muslim woman from marrying a non-Muslim, but allows a Muslim man to marry a non-Muslim who is mentioned in the people's book, such as Christians and Jews, and if the man must marry someone who is not mentioned in the people's book, the other person must first convert to Islam to make the marriage valid, or it will be deemed void. Religious weddings are those in which the other party converts to Islam in order to marry a Muslim man. This was further used by the activists to force the women to convert their religion and not because of love for the other person.

Laws in India

The issue gained traction following the shooting death of a 20-year-old college girl outside her campus by a classmate; some speculated that the incident was the result of one-sided love, while the family claimed it was the result of a love jihad plot. Since then, many activists and groups have called for a law to prevent this, and in response, the Uttar Pradesh government passed the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2020, which prohibits conversion solely for the purpose of marriage and vice versa, and makes offences under it cognizable and non-bailable, drawing criticism from a wide range of religious groups.

The state of Madhya Pradesh and two other BJP-ruled states followed suit, and the BJP's legal stance is exemplified by the comment of Narottam Mishra, Home Minister of Madhya Pradesh, who declares, "We would fight the love that leads to Jihad." Though the name Love Jihad is just a decade old, the practise of conversion through marriage or deception dates back almost a century, when princely courts in Rajasthan, such as Udaipur, Kota, and Raigarh, were forced to pass laws to protect Hindu women from British missionaries. Orissa Freedom of Religion Act, 1967; Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, 1968; Arunachal Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, 1978; Gujarat Freedom of Religion Act, 2003; Himachal Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, 2006; Uttarakhand Freedom of Religion Act, 2018.

Relevant Provisions in Dispute

Section 3: Section 3 of the Act forbids forceful religious conversion by force, allurement, or fraudulent means; nevertheless, the modified Bill proposed to outlaw conduct such as coercive religious conversion by marriage or assisting a person in getting married.

Section 3A: Any aggrieved individual, his parents, brother, sister, or any other person connected by blood, marriage, or adoption may file a FIR in relation to an alleged unlawful conversion under Section 3A.

Section 4A: Unlawful conversion is punishable under Section 4A by a sentence of 3 to 5 years in jail.

Section 4B: Marriages formed through illegal conversion are declared null and void under Section 4B.

Section 4C: Organizations that engage in unlawful conversion are prosecuted under Section 4C.

Section 6A: The accused bears the burden of proof under Section 6A.

The Court issued an interim decision holding that interfaith marriages that occur without the use of coercion, allurement, or fraudulent means are exempt from the Amended Act's requirements. The purpose of this order is to safeguard the partners in interfaith weddings from unwarranted harassment. Sections 3, 4, 4A to 4C, 5, 6, and 6A would not apply to a marriage solely because it was solemnised between members of two different religions.

Conclusion

Laws prohibiting unlawful religious conversions are not new in India; such laws have been enacted numerous times in the past to prevent conversion by coercion, and now marriage has been added to the list. The rule was enacted to safeguard women who must convert to another faith in order to marry their loved ones, yet many people regard the process as wrongful conversion because altering one's religion for the sake of marriage is not appropriate.

The laws have been made for the protection of the people and thus it is important that the very aspect of the law for protection does not impose further hardships for the people. The laws passed by the various states have targeted forceful conversion and not conversion or inter-faith marriage in general.


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