Tuesday, March 2

Uttarakhand: Interfaith couple booked for religious conversion in violation of law

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An interfaith couple who had approached the Uttarakhand High Court seeking protection has been booked here along with two others for allegedly not following the provisions of the state’s anti-conversion law, police said on Wednesday.

According to police, this is the first case of violation of the Uttarakhand Freedom of Religion Act in the state since it came into force in 2018

An FIR was lodged at the Patel Nagar police station here on Tuesday against the couple who got married in September, the husband’s uncle in whose presence the ‘nikah’ took place and the qazi who solemnised the alliance, Patel Nagar SHO Pradeep Rana said.

The high court, after the couple approached it seeking protection, had directed the District Magistrate to inquire into the matter, police said.

The police found that the woman had converted to Islam without informing her parents or the district authorities prior to her marriage as is required by the law, SHO Rana said.

Circle Officer Anuj Kumar said it was in violation of sections 3, 8 and 12 of the Uttarakhand Freedom of Religion Act, 2018.

Section 3 of the Act prohibits conversion either directly or otherwise, by use of misrepresentation, force, undue influence, coercion, allurement or by any fraudulent means or by marriage.

Section 8 of the Act says, “One who desires to convert his religion, shall give a declaration at least one month in advance to the District Magistrate or any official authorised by him for the purpose saying that he wishes to convert his religion on his own and at his free consent and without any force, coercion, undue influence or allurement.

“The religious priest, who performs purification Sanskar or conversion  ceremony for converting any person of one religion to another religion, shall give one month’s advance notice of such conversion to the DM or someone authorised by him.”

It further says any contravention of the provisions shall have the effect of rendering the said conversion, illegal and void.

Section 12 says when an offence is committed under this Act everyone deemed to have taken part in its commission by way of aiding, abetting or counselling conversion shall be charged as if he has actually committed it.

This is the first case of violation of the Act since it came into force in 2018, the Circle Officer said.

In another case, the Uttarakhand High Court had recently asked the Haridwar administration to give protection to a couple after the wife cited a threat from her family due to their interfaith marriage.

The woman had filed a notice before the district magistrate of Haridwar for changing religion from Islam to Hinduism.