A week after a new ordinance by the Uttar Pradesh government to stop unlawful conversion became law, the police in state capital Lucknow stopped a wedding ceremony between a Hindu woman and a Muslim man, citing the ordinance.
The wedding was supposed to take place on Wednesday in Lucknow’s Para area. But minutes before ceremonies were to begin, a police team reached the venue and asked both parties to accompany them to the local police station.
At the police station, both sides were asked to first seek clearance for the marriage from the Lucknow District Magistrate, according to the police.
“On 2 December, we received information that a girl from one community was wanting to get married to a boy from another other community. We called both sides to the police station and handed them a copy of the new unlawful conversion ordinance and both sides have given written consent that as per law, they will inform the DM (District Magistrate) and get his permission before moving ahead with things,” Suresh Chandra Rawat, a senior Lucknow police officer, told the media.
While the families of both the man and the woman have not spoken on record , sources say the wedding was taking place with the consent and the knowledge of both families and that there was no coercion involved . Sources say both families intend to go ahead with the wedding after completing any legal formalities required under law. There was also no intention of either side to convert, family sources have claimed.
The Uttar Pradesh Unlawful Religious Conversion Prohibition Ordinance (2020) says that religious conversions that use falsehood, force or an incentive, or take place solely for the purpose of marriage will be declared a crime. Those who plan to convert after marriage, the government said, will have to inform the District Magistrate of their intention at least two months in advance.
The burden of proof, that the conversion was not forced or for marriage, will be on the person converting, and all cases filed under the ordinance will be non-bailable.
According to the ordinance, forced conversion (or conversion through fraud) will be punished by up to five years’ imprisonment or a fine of Rs. 15,000. If the forced conversion involves a woman from the marginalised communities, then this will increase to between three and 10 years’ jail and a fine of Rs. 25,000. Mass conversions will attract a similar jail term and a fine of Rs. 50,000.