Even today, elders of the family arrange marriages. They marry their girls to a man of the same caste/religion. However, some girls fall in love with a person of a different religion. But when the family comes to know about it, they condemn it.
Girls are not free to choose their life partners. And even today, the concept of pure blood prevails. India, being a diverse country, still needs to become accustomed to inter-faith marriages. But it feels like it is a distant dream.
A new law on invalidating interfaith marriages has been made by the UP government. Let’s delve into the issue and see the current law on interfaith marriages.
Love jihad has become a common term and it targets interfaith marriages in India. Radical Hindus used this term. They allege that Muslim men convert Hindu women to Islam under the pretext of love. Muslims target Hindu women by feigning love, deception, and marriage and convert them to Islam.
Hindutva proponents started it as propaganda in 2009, as it would protect Hindu women from charmingly deceptive Muslims. As the BJP formed governments in many parts of India, this ideology shaped hate politics.
The spread of such hate led to questioning of love/inter-religious marriage and honor killings.
Noor Jahan Begum @ Anjali Mishra and Anr. vs. the State of UP, (2014)
Allahabad HC refused to grant protection to a married couple. Because the girl had undergone an unjustified conversion to Islam just for marriage. Such conversion was not according to the Holy Quran.
Priyanshi @ Shamreen and Ors. vs. the State of UP, (2020)
The court followed the same precedent here. Allahabad HC dismissed the petition of the couple seeking police protection. Here a woman had converted from Hinduism to Islam and married a Muslim man. The court said that conversion to any religion just for marriage, without knowledge of religion, is unacceptable.
In both cases, the marriage was held invalid, because the conversion was not bonafide.
Based on this, the UP government proceeded to formulate an ordinance criminalizing inter-faith marriage. This was the Prohibition of Unlawful Religious Conversion Ordinance, 2020.
Salamat Ansari and Ors. vs. State of UP, (2020)
Allahabad HC overruled the previous decisions. It is said that it is the right of a person to choose his/her life partner, irrespective of religion. No one should encroach upon such a personal choice, if they are a major and give free consent.
Special Marriage Act, 1954
People who belong to the same religion, marry under their respective personal laws. But for those who belong to different religions, there is no bar for them to marry. Neither is their marriage illegal.
However, there is a distinct law for inter-religious marriage. Such a marriage is a special one and the law governing it is the Special Marriage Act, 1954.
Essentials of inter-religious marriage
- Neither party should have a spouse living at that time
- Parties should be major
- Parties must be capable of giving a valid and free consent
- They are not within a prohibited degree of relationship
- Parties have to give notice to the Marriage Officer of the district
- Where either of the parties lives
- Such notice is kept as a record in the Marriage Notice Book for inspection
Solemnization of Marriage
- Parties and 3 witnesses have to sign a declaration, given in the 3rd Schedule
- Parties have to say, “I (name) take (partner’s name) to be my lawful wife/husband.
- Witnesses have to be present and should understand it.
Certificate of Marriage
- The marriage Officer makes a certificate as given under the 4th Schedule
- The parties and the witnesses have to sign it
- The marriage officer enters the certificate in the Marriage Certificate Book as conclusive evidence of marriage
The legal provision is clear in itself. But a problem creeps in when either of the parties converts to the religion of their partner. Or people claim that such a conversion was a forced one. For the sake of marriage, one party was unduly influenced to convert to another religion.
It is because of this reason that the UP government formulated such a law.
Prohibition of Unlawful Religious Conversion Ordinance, 2020
- It criminalizes forced conversion
- Forced conversion has become a non-bailable offense.
5 yrs. Imprisonment and Rs. 15,000 fine, if:
Conversion is done through-
- Undue influence
- Fraudulent means
3-10 yrs. Imprisonment and Rs. 25,000 fine, if:
- A woman from SC/ST
3-10 yrs. Imprisonment and Rs. 50,000 fine, if:
- Conversion at a mass level
Court declares the marriage as null and void if the sole intention of it is changing religion.
Who can convert?
Anyone wanting to convert has to write to the District Magistrate at least 2 months in advance. The person has to prove that the conversion is not forceful/fraudulent.
Article 21: Right to life
“No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to the procedure established by law.”
It protects the life of every individual who acts according to Indian law. The article includes the right of a person to marry anyone of his/her own choice. However, that person should be a major, and his/her consent should be free.
SC held that “the right to marry a person of one’s choice is an integral part of Article 21.” Marriage lies within the core zone of privacy, which is inviolable. Neither state nor law can dictate the choice of partner. If it does so, it is a violation of personal liberty.
Shakti Vahini vs. UOI
When 2 people consensually choose each other as life partners, it’s the exercise of Articles 19 and 21.
Lily Thomas vs UOI
Facts of case
A woman filed a petition, stating that she married a man as per Hindu law. He converted to Islam and asked for a divorce from her. As he was going to marry another woman. He had a condition to either get a divorce or put up with a second wife.
The woman prayed that the court should stop the second marriage. And that man cannot take advantage of feigned conversion to marry a second time.
- Whether conversion to Islam just for marriage, is valid?
- Whether marriage after conversion is valid?
Conversion to Islam means conversion of faith and belief. Freedom of religion is not a garb to evade other laws. As man does not practice Islam. He converted just to get rid of his first marriage. This is not right.
Marriage and Bigamy
Second marriage after embracing Islam is void as it violates justice, equity, and good conscience.
It doesn’t automatically dissolve an already solemnized Hindu marriage. Marriage still subsists; it becomes a ground for divorce. Any other marriage during the subsistence of first is void. It is an offense under Section 494, IPC.
What is important here is that SC/law doesn’t bar inter-religious marriage. 2 people should be major (girls- 18 yrs.; boys- 21 yrs.) and their consent should be free.
For interfaith marriage, conversion is not necessary, persons can proceed under the Special Marriage Act. We should encourage marriages under this Act. People should understand that interfaith marriage is not taboo.
Something is questioned because it is not according to societal norms. Such is the situation with interfaith marriages, known as love jihad. To protect Hindu girls from it, radicals condemned their marriage to Muslim boys. But who are they to question such a choice?
Marriage is a societal phenomenon but who a person will marry is his/her independent choice. India is a diverse country but it kneels down before purity notion and religious separation. One way to achieve unity in diversity is to encourage inter-religious marriage under the Special Marriage Act.
Forceful conversion is surely condemned, but that doesn’t mean interfaith marriages are illegal. The step of the UP government is appreciable but we should not confuse it with valid inter-religious marriages.
If still doubts persist, contact Legal Experts at