Reportedly, Karnataka Home Minister Araga Jnanendra has said that a separate law isn’t necessary for “love jihad” cases as requested, as the anti-conversion law handles them effectively.
Furthermore, the minister has ruled out the necessity of forming a special task force to deal with suspected cases of “love jihad” as demanded by some pro-Hindu outfits.
Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, passed the anti-conversion law in order to prevent interfaith marriages. On November 28, a law passed against conversion forced interfaith couples to give two months’ notice to a district official before getting married.
Currently, in India, interfaith marriages must be announced at least 30 days in advance under the Special Marriages Act of 1954. Right-wing groups, which were preventing interfaith marriages, claimed that they involve “forced conversions”, or “love jihad”. If convicted of using marriage as a means of forcing a spouse to change their faith, a prison term of up to ten years can be imposed. A complaint regarding forced conversion can be made by parents, siblings, and “any relative” by marriage or adoption. Likewise, such marriages can be nullified. The onus of proof lies with the person converting, or with the person advising them to convert.
According to Jnanendra, a special task force is not needed to deal with ‘love jihad’ cases, after pro-Hindu outfits submitted a memorandum regarding the same. Commenting on the same, he said, “I received a request seeking formation of a special task force to deal with love jihad cases. I told them that it is there in current conversion prohibition policy and that our police department implements that.”
“Our constitution provides a provision to convert from one religion to another and that is not a problem. Information of the one who is converting and the one who is conducting the conversion has to be communicated to the deputy commissioner one month in advance. Later, there will be an inquiry regarding the conversion, whether it is being done under some influence or force or if a person is willingly giving his/her consent to the conversion. If the due process is followed and no discrepancies come to the fore, the deputy commissioner will give the permission and only then can the conversion process happen.”
In his opinion, the existing act is adequate for the state because it has all these safeguards in place to prevent conversions without permission.
“We brought the conversion prohibition policy for this very purpose. Conversion is happening on a large scale in the Chitradurga district and I know it. Many priests and saints have spoken to me about this issue and we have acted on the matter. A complaint has to be lodged by any relative or a neighbour and only then can police take immediate action,” said Jnanendra.
The home minister responded to pro-Hindu outfits’ demand for a special task force to deal with “love jihad” cases, and said, “Is there a necessity for a special task force? If anybody complains, the police department will take action… If a necessity arises, we will think about it.”
A committee has been set up by the Maharashtra government to address issues related to inter-caste and interfaith marriages in order to prevent a repetition of the Shraddha Walkar case. There has been widespread criticism over the move by the opposition.
The 12-member group, which will be chaired by Women and Child Development Minister and BJP MLA Mangal Prabhat Lodha, would include both government and non-government representatives. The committee will collect information on the spouses involved in such weddings.
The action drew backlash from the opposition, with NCP MLA and former minister Jitendra Ahwad claiming that the government is breaking the law by intervening in people’s private lives.
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