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KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • The term 'love jihad' refers to an alleged attempt by Muslim men to convert Hindu women under the guise of love.
  • In 2009, alleged conversions in Kerala and Karnataka brought the concept to the attention of the Indian public.
  • The UP state government passed the prohibition of unlawful religious conversion act, 2021, famously known as the Love Jihad law in February this year.
  • Marriages solely for converting a woman's religion will be ruled null and void, with up to ten years in prison as a penalty.
  • Anyone seeking to change to another religion would have to notify the District Magistrate in writing at least two months in advance, under the new law.
  • The Supreme Court is required to function as a counter-majoritarian institution, as it did in the Sabarimala decision, which protected the individual's dignity and liberty.

Introduction

The term 'love jihad' refers to an alleged attempt by Muslim men to convert Hindu women under the guise of love. NCW chairperson Rekha Sharma has stated that 'rampant' love jihad exists in Kerala and that they (alluding to Muslims) were recruiting women – not just Hindus, but also Christians – and forcefully converting them. The National Investigation Agency (NIA) revealed after an investigation that, while it had discovered a common mentor in some of the Kerala instances in August 2017, there was no proof of attempted or forced conversion in those cases.

History

In 2009, alleged conversions in Kerala and Karnataka brought the concept to the attention of the Indian public. From then, the claims expanded throughout India and beyond, to Myanmar, Pakistan, and the United Kingdom. The modern-day Love Jihad plot has its origins in colonial India. In Kanpur in 1924, a Muslim bureaucrat was accused of "abducting and seducing" a Hindu woman and forcing her to convert. A Hindu group demanded the woman's "recovery" from the bureaucrat's home.

In colonial India, the abduction of Hindu women was discussed in Parliament. The partition of India in 1947 resulted in the formation of India and Pakistan, each with a separate majority religion. This resulted in mass migration, with millions of people migrating between the two countries and widespread claims of sexual exploitation and forced conversions.

Women on both sides were affected, forcing both the Indian and Pakistani governments to launch "recovery operations." In the decades that followed, this heated past resulted in recurring conflicts between the faiths.

The Kerala High Court invalidated the marriage of Akhila alias Hadia, a converted Hindu woman, to Shafeen Jahan, a Muslim man, in May 2017 because the parents of the bride were not present and did not consent to the marriage. Shafeen Jahan appealed the court's decision to the Supreme Court of India, who overturned the Kerala High Court's annulment of Hadiya's marriage.

Yogi Adityanath, the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, instructed his government to devise a strategy to avoid religious conversions in the name of love and even considered introducing an ordinance if necessary.

The UP state government passed the prohibition of unlawful religious conversion act, 2021, famously known as the Love Jihad law in February this year. It states that marriage will be invalid if the sole purpose is to change a woman’s religion. The act provides punishment and fines under three different heads.

Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, and Karnataka are also considering legislation to outlaw forcible conversions through marriage.

Punishment

Marriages solely for converting a woman's religion will be ruled null and void, with up to ten years in prison as a penalty.

A prison term of one to five years and a fine of 15,000 rupees shall penalize forced religious conversion. If the woman is a minor or belongs to a Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe, they may face a sentence of three to ten years in prison and a fine of up to Rs 25,000.

A three-to-ten-year prison sentence and a fine of Rs 50,000 for the organizations that carry them out will penalize mass conversions.

If someone wants to convert their religion after marriage, they must apply two months ahead of time to the District Magistrate.

Though anti-conversion laws have existed in India since 1967, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh were the first states to include a marriage clause. Misrepresentation, force, fraud, undue influence, coercion, and allurement, are prohibited under the Uttarakhand Freedom of Religion Act, 2018. It is a non-bailable offense with penalties ranging from one to five years in prison and a fine. In 2019, Himachal Pradesh approved a similar bill.

How can someone convert under the new law?

Anyone seeking to change to another religion would have to notify the District Magistrate in writing at least two months in advance, under the new law.

The government will create an application format, and individuals will be required to fill out the application in that format to convert.

It would be the responsibility of the person seeking religious conversion to prove that it is not being forced or done fraudulently. Any infringement of this clause will result in imprisonment ranging from 6 months to 3 years, as well as a fine of at least Rs 10,000.

Constitutional Morality

When discriminatory laws like anti-conversion and anti-by-choice marriage laws, and the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, (2019), are considered, the stakes are high. These laws have the potential to rip India's social and democratic fabric apart.

In the past, the Supreme Court has recognized a variety of individual rights over social morality. Even when challenged against the State, a comparable progressive attitude would generate hope among citizens and reinforce the Constitution as the savior of the minuscule fraction. It was the gist of the NavtejJohar decision.

The Supreme Court is required to function as a counter-majoritarian institution, as it did in the Sabarimala decision, which protected the individual's dignity and liberty. The unifying thread, which runs across all of these decisions, is liberty, which is rooted in the notion of constitutional morality. As a result, anti-sectarian legislation such as the CAA and the love jihad statute must be evaluated for their constitutional morality. They will be found unconstitutional.

Conclusion

Marriages are seen as a significant instrument for bridging differences and the most effective way to break down barriers between social groups based on caste and religion. Such an act discourages people from interfaith marriages, especially at a time when more and more interfaith marriages are needed to alleviate the growing polarisation in Indian society.Furthermore, the Indian Constitution guarantees citizens' freedom and choice, and such a law restricts any citizen's right to love and marry the person of their choice.


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